October 20, 2013

Sea Level, on the Rise

Every once in a while, I do something that’s serious. Okay, often, I do something that’s serious. This is one of them. I played journalist a few weeks ago and interviewed Tad Pfeffer, a glaciologist at CU-Boulder, about the recently released IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. They’re somewhat few and far between, and this is the year. What do they tell us? The state of climate science and what we understand about climate past, present, and future—as best as we know at this time. I loved the process of doing the interview in the way that I first thought I would love doing journalism—I loved the learning. I learned as much as I could in the time I had allotted so I could actually conduct a somewhat intelligent interview with Pfeffer. That was the goal. Whether I accomplished it or not doesn’t really matter so much at this point, because I loved feeling like a journalist. And I learned about the IPCC report, knowledge that I can now build on moving forward.

Guyot glacier in Icy Bay, Alaska
[A once-flat, hundreds-of-meters thick Guyot glacier in Icy Bay, Alaska, now cracked as bedrock emerges in Guyot's rapid retreat. Had to use this image after I saw it was taken by a former co-worker, who was a PhD student of Pfeffer's. (Photo: Shad O'Neel, USGS)]

But enough about my process. Curious about sea level changes? Wondering when Miami is going to be gulping for air? We didn’t talk about the latter, but we did talk about some very interesting dynamics. Here are the most salient tidbits, and then you can read on if you want more:


  • The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an intergovenmental body open to all members of the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization. 195 countries are currently members. It doesn’t conduct research or collect new data, but rather “reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change.” (Straight from their website.)

  • The IPCC has released reports in 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007, and the full current report will be released in 2014. The reports consist of three parts from three working groups: physical science (climate past, present, and future), societal effects, and mitigation (both preventing and addressing the effects of human-induced climate change). At the end of September, the summary of the sciency part was released. The other two bits will (theoretically) build off that science.

  • The recent IPCC Working Group I report consists of 14 chapters. Each chapter represents a major topic in climate science, with the exception of the introduction, and is authored by many scientists. This is not new research, but a summary of what’s out there.

  • Tad Pfeffer was one of 14 lead authors on the chapter about sea level change.

  • Sea level rise is accelerating. Global sea level increased an average of about 1.5 mm per year from 1901 through 1990, more or less. Then, from about 1993 to 2010, that rate went up to 3.2 millimeters per year.

  • Current estimate have sea level rising between 26 to 98 centimeters by the end of the century (2100). The range is broad because what sea level does depends on what the climate does, which depends in part on what we do. Various scenarios are accounted for.

  • Looking at the global mean sea level neglects local and regional effects. The sea surface is not uniform! It actually has topography that varies by up to two meters, or six feet.

  • Small glaciers are the major contributors right now to sea level rise as far as water goes, even though the vast majority of ice on the planet is hoarded by the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. The contributions of these giants are catching up to the little guys. Total potential contribution breakdown: Antarctic ice sheet wins at about 70 meters of sea level rise (that's more than 210 feet), then Greenland with 7 meters, and then all the rest of the glaciers of the world with a whopping... half a meter.  But half a meter matters, if you live in southern Florida. Or Bangladesh.

  • The biggest contributor to sea level rise is not melting ice at all, but ocean expansion. As the ocean warms, it expands, like just about any other medium would.

  • Did you know that the gravitational pull of ice sheets pulls sea level up locally? I didn't. So, when a big body of ice melts, there are two effects to consider: Sea level rise from the addition of water, and sea level drop from the loss of the mass of the ice on land.

Interest piqued? Read on (and see some cool graphics). Or, take a listen, if you’d rather, to the original interview, with full “um-ness” on KGNU’s How On Earth archives.

Continue reading "Sea Level, on the Rise"

Posted by beth at 3:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 15, 2013

What's Up Down South

This is the iceblog, after all.

The effect of the government shutdown on research in Antarctica has made it to the news, but of course can't get to the full extent of what's happening. I can't, either, but at least I can maybe offer up a little extra insight, since I'm still in touch with lots of ice friends. And regardless, I feel like I need to comment on it here.

Continue reading "What's Up Down South"

Posted by beth at 6:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 14, 2013

Fall Up Lost Angel

Meet Lumin.

Yeah, she's cute.

I hopped up to Lost Angel Road, up in the foothills outside Boulder, to hang out with her and her mom, Laurie, this weekend. Come up today, Laurie said on Saturday, because it's supposed to be windy tomorrow.

So we bundled up on what was really more of a winter day than a fall day and went for a short but lovely hike.

Continue reading "Fall Up Lost Angel"

Posted by beth at 11:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 10, 2013


I was having a bad day, so what did I do? I colored.

I didn't realize until I was almost done that I was coloring. You know, classic coloring, like a kid would do. Here, kid, dry your tears, here're some crayons.

Yep. Crayons.

Okay, and it's a crappy piece of "art," but there are some nice elements to it, and it was just for fun, anyway. As far as what it is... I dunno, some vague semblance of water, rocks, grass, weird sky. I'd say they're not the colors I'd choose, but I'm pretty sure I chose them. To my credit, the room was pretty dark when I got started.

What do you do when you have a bad day?

Posted by beth at 11:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 5, 2013

Funny Girls

I love Facebook.

It's annoying, too, but mainly I love it, and here are two reasons why, just from this week:

1) I wanted to say on our radio show on Tuesday that many (most?) scientific organizations suffered funding cuts for this coming year. It was meant to be a sort of "welcome to the next fiscal year, in the world of science" comment, and I knew UNAVCO has experienced a substantial cut in funding, and *assumed* that other orgs faced the same fate. But I didn't actually know. So, I put it out to Facebook. Crowdsourcing is the bomb. The responses from my sciency friends—a journalist, an NSF employee, a researcher and a field tech/engineer—showed the answer is more complicated than I could sum up in one statement, and I abandoned it. Lazy journalism or resourcefulness?

2) I saw a friend was listening to a bunch of Violent Femmes on Spotify (another great Internet tool) and shortly thereafter spotted my Cake CD (yep, still got some of those) on the floor of my room and thought yeah, I'm in the mood for something kind of quirky and fun. But I'm also in the mood for a female vocalist. !? Wait, what? Does that combination exist? Here's what I put out to Facebook:

Huh... are there any quirky / funny female bands out there? Or do all female bands take themselves seriously? I'm thinking Violent Femmes, Cake... is there not a market for quirky women, or am I just drawing a blank? Kimya Dawson is the only one who's coming to mind.

This is exactly the kind of query Facebookers love.

Here are the responses, in case you're curious:

The Ditty Bops
Freeze Pop
Uncle Earl
Northern State
Le Tigre
Bikini Kill
Lake Street Dive
Regina Spektor (esp. Soviet Kitsch or Songs
KT Tunsall (song: Ashes)

Now... I think most of, or many, of these are, say, spunky or sassy but not so sure about quirky and silly, or not taking themselves seriously. Some, though, yes, and all deserve a listen. I'm making my way through them on—yes—Spotify. Please, please, add to this list.

(My favorite comment, by the way, was "Cat power doesn't take herself too seriously....")

I might want to write a short piece on this, so by all means, if you have thoughts on this, please comment here, or e-mail me and rant, or find me on Facebook and rant, or whatever.

[October 10, 2013
Updated list:

Cibo Matto
Kumbia Queers
Christine Lavin ("is hilarious!! She has a song about an amoeba band in a mud puddle!")
Garfunkel and Oates

And, here's an article recommendation from my friend Nichole, which is worth clicking just for the pic with it. Awesome:

Hey Chicas! The Rise Of All-Girl Bands Across Latin America And Spain

Posted by beth at 7:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Me 'n' the Gov'mnt

So, we were told—I was told, or I heard somewhere along the line—that UNAVCO, where I'm working as a "temporary" employee these days, would not be affected by the government shutdown. Indeed, UNAVCO is not a government organization. But we are, like so many other organizations not represented in articles and infographics, funded by the government. Most of UNAVCO's funding comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF), with a much smaller chunk from NASA and an even smaller chunk from other sources. I don't know how the money distribution works, but apparently we don't just have a wad of cash from NSF to spend for the year (or the next five, which is what our grant is for). Perhaps we would have if it weren't at the beginning of the fiscal year. Either way, I'm cut off from hours until the government cranks on that lever and starts up the lights again.

I'm cut off because the decision was made (passive, because I don't know who made it and there's no reason to point fingers) to shut down funds to temporary employees, in addition to some other funding cuts. I was feeling maybe a little picked on (I mean, how much of their budget do I really take?) until an e-mail just came out reporting even more drastic measures: Salary cuts across the organization to keep UNAVCO running, at least for a bit. A salary cut that's not so much to cough at, for some. The org assures that this cut is in place "with the intent to restore retro pay when federal funds become accessible," which sounds just a little tenuous to me. Regardless, UNAVCO is taking one for the team. Whatever that means.

Also, the Antarctic season is in jeopardy. Right now is when everyone is heading south—or planning to. If you're not already down there... Well, hope you make it.

Posted by beth at 7:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 29, 2013

Joy on a Ledge

Joy! Joy! Joy!

I live with so very many shoulds that I rarely, at least over the past several years, let myself just be. (Although I'm getting much better at it.) I have blog entries to write, employment to find, skills to learn, photos to take, people's lives to affect, expectations to live up to (mainly my own, so don't feel protective thinking there are critical people around me), and a life to figure out. You know, little things.

But this Saturday was just about going up for a night in the foothills with some friends. That's all. On a beautiful day. Into a beautiful night. The plan: take a short hike, and then have a picnic at sunset. The execution? Flawless. Paul and Emily are the best.

Continue reading "Joy on a Ledge"

Posted by beth at 8:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 10, 2013

Oh, Hello, Rockies

Back in Boulder for all of about three days, and Marianne and I head off to Rocky Mountain National Park to get a dose of rocks and trees.

This is where we ended up:

Continue reading "Oh, Hello, Rockies"

Posted by beth at 5:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 9, 2013

A Few Views

I no longer want to eat all the time. In fact, I rarely want to eat. It's kind of a problem. But I'll just keep grazing in the kitchen, and I'm sure I'll be fine.

But really, I just wanted to post a few pics, although I have hardly taken out my camera since I've been here. This is more of a time and place to get away from the shoulds and let go of attachments. So, the camera has mostly stayed off my shoulder. This is all I've got:

Part 1: The road to camp.
I stopped at Lake Erie State Park in New York to check out the lake. And, apparently, the rocks. Lovely.

Continue reading "A Few Views"

Posted by beth at 8:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 19, 2013

I Want to Eat

All the time. I want to eat all the time. And then when I do sit down to eat, I eat quickly, not really tasting the food, although I eat a lot. The food is good, but I've already tasted parts of most of it in the kitchen, where I graze. I graze on what we're making, and I graze on what we've made. I find drawn to the starchy stuff, all the stuff I've been subtly avoiding over the past year—bread and muffins and croutons (THE most amazing croutons, and yes they are just bread, but rosemary garlic bread, sauteed in olive oil...) and pancakes and so much for eating healthy foods all summer. They're not bad foods, but it's these starches I've been craving, and my belly hurts. But then I'll go for another crouton, anyway, and maybe sneak a piece of chocolate from the pantry.

Continue reading "I Want to Eat"

Posted by beth at 2:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)