Climate Change On Navy's Radar

Story Number: NNS100203-30Release Date: 2/3/2010 9:47:00 PM
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From Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command Public Affairs

ATLANTA, Ga. (NNS) -- The director of the U.S. Navy's Task Force Climate Change (TFCC) said the earth is truly experiencing a climate change and the Navy needs to be prepared for potential impacts on its mission areas.

Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy and TFCC Director Rear Adm. David Titley made his remarks as part of a panel discussion on environmental security and climate change at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Atlanta last month.

The Task Force makes recommendations to Navy leadership regarding policy, strategy, force structure and investments relating to climate change. Of immediate interest is the Navy's investment in observation and prediction capabilities.

Titley said the rate of global warming has not slowed, and the long term trend is rising. The Arctic is among the areas seeing the greatest impact from climate change, with sea ice coverage during summer months steadily diminishing, and the ice is thinner when the Arctic Ocean freezes again in the winter.

Titley said the ice volume has declined and is not coming back.

"We're really seeing a tremendous change in the Arctic," he said, adding that the "new" normal for the Arctic is to be not completely frozen all year.

The implications are significant for the Navy's fixed assets as well as operations and potential operations, and Navy leadership will have to decide how to respond.

For instance, a sea-level rise of two meters can cause the Navy to evaluate which of its bases will be viable, and additionally queries whether or not the Navy should operate ice-hardened ships in an ice-diminished arctic, even though ice-hardened ships cost more to build and to operate.

Consequently, Titley said, the Navy is interested in reducing its carbon-based energy output by 50 percent by 2020.

Task Force Climate Change recently released its Arctic Roadmap, which guides Navy policy, investment, action and public discussion regarding the Arctic. Another roadmap for the broader issue of global climate change will subsequently be developed.

The Navy also works with interagency and international partners to assess changes in the Arctic and to prevent conflict that might result from the change.

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