Wednesday 20 January 2016

Nicoll Drive being raised to stave off rising seas

It's first such project undertaken to prepare for impact of climate change on Singapore
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2016

Nicoll Drive, which hugs the eastern shoreline next to Changi Beach, is being raised in anticipation of rising sea levels triggered by global warming.

The road-raising project - which elevates the 1km, two-lane dual carriage by up to 0.8m - is the first Singapore is undertaking to brace itself for the effects of climate change.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said: "As this stretch of road is located near the coastline, the works are being carried out to minimise the risk of seawater inundation as part of the Government's overall coastal protection measures for climate change adaptation."

The authority said the project is expected to be completed by the middle of this year, and added that it had no immediate plans to raise other roads near the coast.

Experts have warned that rising sea levels will have a devastating impact on Singapore.

In a recent report, research group Climate Central said that even if the world could limit temperature rise to 2 deg C, 130 million people living in coastal areas would be affected by higher sea levels caused by melting polar ice.

An interactive Climate Central map shows parts of Changi Airport, Jurong Island and parts of the west coast under water if global temperatures were to rise by 2 deg C.

Previous studies by retired Professor Wong Poh Poh of the department of geography at the National University of Singapore (NUS) indicated that coastal reservoirs such as Kranji, Sarimbun and Seletar could also be under threat.

Sea water would enter these catchment areas, making the water undrinkable. Prof Wong could not be reached for comment, but assistant professor Daniel Friess of the NUS' Department of Geography said Singapore needs to future-proof its critical infrastructure in the face of climate change.

He said: "Planning for coastal flooding and sea level rise is a challenge in Singapore, as we are projected to experience high rates of sea level rise in this region over the next 100 years.

"We have relatively little space to relocate critical infrastructure... So we will have to come up with integrated and innovative solutions that involve retrofitting infrastructure - such as raising roads - and strengthening coastal defences."

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has an entire division devoted to coastal protection.

A BCA spokesman said Phase 1 of the Second National Climate Change Study, completed last year, projects the mean sea level to rise by up to 0.76m by the end of the century. She added that an ongoing "coastal adaptation study", which is expected to be completed by next year, would spell out what needs to be done to prepare for that predicted rise in sea level.

Meanwhile, she said, Singapore is adequately protected from coastal floods for the immediate future.

"About 70-80 per cent of our coastal areas already have hard walls or stone embankments, which help protect against coastal erosion," she said, adding that if necessary, these will be reinforced.

She reiterated that the minimum land reclamation height was raised from 3m to 4m above the mean sea level in 2011.

As for Nicoll Drive, the road-raising project is expected to help motorists stay dry during unusually high tides. This happened at least twice - in 1974 and 1999.

In the 1974 incident, which happened on Feb 9, several parts of the city were also submerged - without a single drop of rain.

2015 is by far the hottest year on record
NASA confirms US agency's report, says it underscores need to act on climate change
The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016

MIAMI • Not only was 2015 the warmest worldwide since 1880, but also it shattered the previous record held in 2014 by the widest margin ever observed, said a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62 deg F (0.9 deg C) above the 20th-century average," said the NOAA report.

"This was the highest among all years in the 1880-2015 record."

Compared with 2014, last year was 0.16 deg C warmer, the "largest margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken".

United States space agency NASA, which monitors global climate using a fleet of satellites and weather stations, confirmed that last year broke records for heat in contemporary times.

NASA said that the temperature changes are largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.

"Today's announcement not only underscores how critical NASA's Earth observation programme is, it is a key data point that should make policymakers stand up and take notice - now is the time to act on climate," said NASA administrator Charles Bolden.

The latest finding adds to a steady rise in heat across land and sea surfaces that has seen records repeatedly broken over the years.

"Since 1997, which at the time was the warmest year on record, 16 of the subsequent 18 years have been warmer than that year," said the NOAA report.

Last year alone, 10 months had record-high temperatures for their respective months.

The heat was felt worldwide, with unprecedented warmth covering much of Central America and the northern half of South America.

High temperatures were observed in parts of northern, southern and eastern Europe, as well as western Asia and a large section of east-central Siberia.

In Singapore, last year tied with 1998 and 1997 as the warmest years on record, with an annual mean temperature of 28.3 deg C. The next joint warmest years on record are 2010 and 2002, with an annual mean temperature of 28.1 deg C.

Last year was also the second driest year on record for Singapore, with a total annual rainfall of 1,266.8mm, following 1997's 1,118.9mm, said the Meteorological Service Singapore.

According to Dr Tom Karl, director of NOAA National Centres for Environmental Information, new heat records would have been set even without the El Nino weather phenomenon, which leads to warmer waters in the equatorial Pacific.

"But El Nino pushed it way over the top," Dr Karl told reporters.

NOAA's announcement came against the backdrop of the recently completed Paris climate talks, at which the goal of capping global warming at 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels was enshrined.

Many scientists say the planet is already about halfway to that milestone, with no sign of slowing down. "This trend will continue," said Mr Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Because of the strong El Nino influence at the beginning of this year, "2016 is expected to be an exceptionally warm year and perhaps even another record", he told reporters.


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