Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Rising Tide Lifts All...Homes?

Rising Sea Levels Seen as Threat to Coastal U.S.
Justin Gillis, New York Times, March 13, 2012

About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research. The research was led by Dr. Benjamin H. Strauss for the nonprofit organization Climate Central, of Princeton, N.J., which conducts original climate research and also informs the public about the work of other scientists.

Florida is by far the most vulnerable, but Louisiana, California, New York and New Jersey are also particularly vulnerable, researchers found, and virtually the entire American coastline is at some degree of risk.

Estimated from a new tidal data set from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the new research calculates that in the lower 48 states, 3.7 million people—one percent of the nation's population—live within one meter of the mean high tide level. Land below that tide line is expected to be permanently inundated someday, possibly as early as 2100, except in places where extensive fortifications are built to hold back the sea. And under current coastal policies, the population and the value of property at risk in that zone are expected to continue rising.

Only in a handful of places have modest steps been taken to prepare. New York City is one: Pumps at some sewage stations have been raised to higher elevations, and the city government has undertaken extensive planning. But the city—including substantial sections of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island—remains vulnerable, as do large parts of Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Read the complete article here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What Doesn't Stay in Vegas? Sprawl.

In honor of Landsat 5's 28th birthday on March 1st, the video below shows how Las Vegas has gone through a massive growth spurt. The outward expansion of the city is shown in a false-color time lapse of data from all the Landsat satellites.

These images were created using reflected light from the near-infrared, red and green portions of the electromagnetic spectrum (Landsat 5 TM bands 4,3,2 and Landsat 1-3 MSS bands 4,2,1). The large red areas are actually green space, mostly golf courses and city parks. You might notice that the images become a lot sharper around 1984 when new instrument designs greatly increased their sensitivity.

Landsat data have been instrumental to our increased understanding of forest fires, storm damage, agricultural trends, and urban growth. Studies using Landsat data have helped land managers keep track of the pace of urbanization in locations around the world.

The next Landsat satellite, now known as LDCM and later as Landsat 8 is scheduled for a launch in January 2013.

International Women's Day

Thursday is the 101st International Women's Day. Eighty-five percent of countries have improved conditions for women over the past six years, according to the World Economic Forum, but in economic and political terms there is still a long way to go. Empowering and educating girls and women and fully leveraging their talent and leadership in the global economy, politics, and society are fundamental elements of the new models required to tackle the current economic challenges and to build sustainable growth.

Equality and empowerment for women is embraced more today than any other time in world history. In the global push for gender equality in everything from business to politics, education to health, Europe has made the greatest strides to close the so-called gender gap. The World Economic Forum, a nonprofit organization known for its annual economic summit in Davos Switzerland has been publishing an annual Global Gender Gap Report since 2006 that ranks countries by their gender performance.

The index examines the gap between men and women in 135 countries in four fundamental categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. The majority of the data reported come from various non-government organizations such as the International Labor Organization, United Nations Development Program and the World Health Organization. A short summary of the report results follows.

Greatest equality between men and women: Iceland tops the list for gender equality, with Norway, Finland and Sweden rounding out the top four best countries. The Nordic countries and their Western European neighbors account for 13 of the top 20 countries with the greatest gender parity in the world. The US ranks 17th, behind South Africa, Lesotho, and the Philippines. Pakistan, Chad, and Yemen rank at the bottom.

Best country for a woman to be a mother: Norway has the lowest risks of maternal mortality – one in 7,600 – and provides skilled help at nearly all births. The worst is Afghanistan.

Best country for female literacy: Literacy rates among women in Lesotho exceed those of men, with 95 percent of women able to read and write, compared with 83 percent of men.  The US shows no gap in educational attainment, with very high levels of literacy for both women and men.

Best country for female leadership: Thailand has the greatest percentage of women in senior management, while Sri Lanka has the greatest percentage of governmental leaders. In the political empowerment subindex, the US ranks 39th out of 135.  In addition, wage inequality in the US remains high, placing us 68th in the world on this variable.

Best country for a woman to go to college: Qatar has six women enrolled in tertiary education for every man.  In Norway, Sweden and Iceland there are over 1.5 women for every man enrolled in tertiary education, and in Finland and Denmark women also make up the majority of those in tertiary education

Best country for a woman to live a long life: Japanese women have the highest life expectancy on the planet.  Regionally, North America holds the top spot for health and survival.

Read the full report here.  The Independent also provides a summary.