Monthly Archives: June 2012

Sea Level Rising, Slowly but Surely

Good old Little Cuba, Hialeah, is the most vulnerable city in the U.S. to the effects of a rising ocean, according to a study by Climate Central. These and other interesting warnings were issued at a Sea Level Rise summit in Boca Raton, organized by Florida Atlantic University (see Miami Herald summary here).

rain forest

Rising seas will give new meaning to “rain forests.”

I’ve been writing about this issue for years now, and not much has changed in terms of awareness:

Like many effects of global warming, serious troubles from sea level rise are not expected for decades, and it will only affect areas near sea level. People are not going to wake up to this reality until they are denied flood insurance, which will happen eventually. South Florida is expected to disappear completely, but that should take several centuries.

Of course, what should happen and what will happen are two different stories. Here’s where you can learn more about sea level rise:

Many people will lose their homes to a rising sea, and some speakers at the conference said that relocation should begin now. The representative from the Florida Keys talked about how they are raising certain elements of infrastructure by two feet, which will buy some time, but her overall tone conveyed a sense of defeat. The ocean is going to win.

Sea level rise is under way, and some very flat islands are already flooded. For the world’s other flat places, the big question remains: how much time do we have left?

Iceland Not So Icy

The residents of the world’s northernmost capital city, ReykJavik, are walking around in shorts and t-shirts in the same kind of temperature that would see a Floridian covered from head to toe (about 60 degrees F). At the outdoor pool, they are sunbathing in bikinis without shivering. I saw a blond schoolgirl with her adorable little classmates get on a public bus wearing nothing but pale green leggings under her black leotard—while I wore a parka. A common refrain from my traveling companions from Florida was, ‘I don’t get it.”


From the rocky bay, the city’s tallest building is always in view.

So the people are nearly as different as the landscape. Both are warmer than expected, and even my cold-phobic self has to admit that the weather is very mild. The outdoor “heat wave” this week was nearly insufferable at the indoor competition pool (the reason I’m here), because the solid structure lacks ventilation. Even I didn’t need a t-shirt.

Then there is the exuberant sunniness to deal with. People are literally gardening at midnight. The constant sunshine makes you hyper-awake, as the bright light at 10 p.m. makes it feels like 5 p.m., and walking home at 1 a.m., the hour in between sunset and sunrise, is either dusk or dawn, or both. Your internal clock is screwed.

The people are uniformly helpful and poised to cash in on the growing tourism industry, which is a much wiser investment for Iceland than its failed banking industry. Few places on earth can offer the full “National Geographic” experience like Iceland can. Geysers. Fjords. Glaciers. Waterfalls around every turn. Endless fields of moss-covered lava. The continental divide of Europe and North America. One moment you’re swimming on the moon and the next you’re flying through a rainbow. Not only have we left Kansas, Toto—we have jumped dimensions.

So far Iceland has exceeded expectations, and I’m sure the 10 days here will end too quickly. Having left the capital in the west for the fishing villages of the east, now I’m really lost in time and space. Having also lost my voice, I’m dumbstruck. Beyond breathtaking, my impression of Iceland is that it is voice-taking. Words can’t really capture it anyway, so I’ll enjoy the silence and let the elves do the talking.