Environment Forum

Appropriately enough, it’s National Tsunami Awareness Week

The U.S. government has announced this as National Tsunami Awareness Week, starting just days after a disastrous tsunami powered over Japan’s northeast coast. Not that anyone necessarily needed reminding.

This week’s advisory, which urges U.S. residents to be prepared for a damaging series of waves, was scheduled before the March 11 Japanese catastrophe, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is the second annual observance of Tsunami Awareness Week. It’s too soon to tell if there might be a pattern emerging: last year’s observance came not long after a giant wave hit the Chilean port of Talcahuano following an 8.8 magnitude quake along Chile’s coast.

Here’s how the Japanese tsunami spread its force across the Pacific:

While the United States may not seem like a prime tsunami target, the Hawaiian Islands and Alaska have long been susceptible. NOAA notes the United States has more coastline than any country on Earth and is in proximity to several major fault lines. Any coastline is potentially in a tsunami’s path.

Because the danger from tsunamis can’t be eliminated, NOAA is concentrating on preparedness, including its main tsunami website. President Barack Obama stressed early warning systems in a statement this week.

JAPAN-QUAKE“As we offer our assistance to those impacted by this tragedy, we also renew our commitment to ensuring preparedness along our shores,” Obama said. “Efficient warning systems and awareness in coastal communities are vital to protecting Americans in at-risk areas of the country.”

“Climategate” e-mails rear their ugly heads — again

CLIMATE-WARMING/How many investigations of climate scientists’ stolen e-mails does the world really need?

The answer, in Washington at least, appears to be five. And counting.

These are not investigations into who might have stolen the e-mails — that’s still publicly unknown. They’re investigating whether the scientists themselves manipulated data to bolster the case for human-caused climate change or tried to keep dissenting researchers from publishing their findings.

Four investigations said the scientists did nothing improper. Now a fifth one, requested by vocal climate change denier Sen. James Inhofe, has said basically the same thing. Inhofe says at least one issue mentioned in the latest report “deserves further investigation.”

Greenland ice melt sets a record — and could set the stage for sea level rise

camp1Greenland’s ice sheet melted at a record rate in 2010, and this could be a major contributor to sea level rise in coming decades.

The ice in Greenland melted so much last year that it formed rivers and lakes on top of the vast series of glaciers that covers much of the big Arctic island, with waterfalls flowing through cracks and holes toward the bottom of the ice sheet. Take a look at video from Marco Tedesco of City College of New York, who is leading a project to study what factors affect ice sheet melting. The photo at left shows a camp by the side of a stream flowing from a lake — all of it on top of the ice sheet.

“This past melt season was exceptional, with melting in some areas stretching up to 50 days longer than average,” Tedesco said in a statement.  “Melting in 2010 started exceptionally early at the end of April and ended quite late in mid- September.”

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