Proceedings Of The Marine

FALL 2014

Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.

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Page 36 of 70

34 Proceedings Fall 2014 overall temperature increases. Whether caused by natural or human circumstances, this increase in our planet's tem- perature, more commonly known as global warming, has a signifcant and long-lasting impact on our climate. From a practical standpoint, you might turn up your air conditioning or visit the local pool on a hot summer day. The Earth operates much the same way. Over time, the Earth will try to naturally cool itself and reduce the amount of excess heat in the atmosphere. This creates a long-term trend of unpredictable weather from severe storms to droughts — a phenomenon better known as climate change. Efects and Challenges Some say that climate change represents one of the greatest challenges of our time, but it is a challenge uniquely suited to America's strengths. President Obama's Climate Action Plan, announced in June 2013, contains three key pillars: • cutting America's carbon pollution, • preparing the United States for climate change effects, • leading international efforts to combat global climate change and prepare for its effects. The second and third pillars focus primarily on adaptation efforts and the need to understand global climate change. Perhaps nowhere else in the world is climate change more noticeable than in the Arctic. Temperatures are warming twice as fast within the Arctic Circle than anywhere else. During summer months, a new ocean is emerging, requir- ing Coast Guard presence — increasing the traditional area of operations and further stretching available resources. The melting sea ice is largely due to air and ocean current circulation, which moves heat energy away from the equator and toward the poles. Ice and snow reflect heat back into space and help cool the Earth, but as sea ice melts, the oceans absorb even more heat energy. Moreover, melting permafrost and warm- ing waters release methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon diox- ide. While it may be taking place at the top of the world, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic, and combined, these effects further accelerate planetary warming. As climate change continues to impact the globe, more extreme and unpredictable weather events are expected to occur more frequently. These events incur catastrophic costs to the federal government and further strain Coast Guard capabilities, as the service is already fulflling vari- ous missions elsewhere in the country and throughout the world. Sea-level rise is another consequence of climate change that affects the waters where the Coast Guard operates. It occurs slowly, which means it is often overlooked as a threat, but has the potential to be one of the most signifcant effects of climate change. Moreover, as the oceans absorb heat trapped in the atmosphere, the newly warmed water expands and causes a corresponding rise in sea level. And fnally, melt- ing ice (especially the massive Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets), contributes to sea-level rise. During the past century, sea levels have risen between 4 and 8 inches. 1 Over the past two decades, sea levels have risen almost twice as fast as the average during the 20 th century. 2 For many coastal and island communities, sea-level rise, coastal erosion, fooding, and fresh water contamination are all major concerns. Public installations, including Coast Guard stations that are impacted by rising water levels, may be forced to relocate or rebuild infrastructure. Strains to these security facilities, power systems, fresh water supplies, and communication networks — whether it be the result of extreme temperatures or fooding — can greatly affect the Coast Guard's ability to carry out its missions. In addition, larger storm surges during extreme weather events also cause concern. For example, during Hurricane Sandy, Battery Park in New York saw a record-breaking storm surge of 13.88 feet. This was far greater than the Chief Petty Offcer Jeremiah Grey, Station Sandy Hook's engineering petty offcer, shows the destruction in the boathouse caused by food waters after Hurricane Sandy. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Offcer Luke Clayton.

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