A report issued by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) says global sea levels could rise by up to 1.6 meters by the year 2100.
Aggravated by a thaw of Greenland's ice, the rise will threaten many coastal areas from Bangladesh to Florida, as well as low-lying Pacific islands and cities such as London and Shanghai, Reuters reported.
According to the Oslo-based program, "the past six years (until 2010) have been the warmest period ever recorded in the Arctic."
Backed by the eight-nation Arctic Council, the program warns that "in the future, global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9 meters to 1.6 meters by 2100 and the loss of ice from Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet will make a substantial contribution".
"Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet contributed over 40 percent of the global sea level rise of around 3 mm per year observed between 2003 and 2008," it said.
While climate change in the Arctic is happening at about twice the world average, foreign ministers of the Arctic Council nations -- the United States, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland - are set to meet in Greenland on May 12, 2011.
The last major report released by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 said that global sea levels were likely to rise by between 18 and 59 cm by 2100, but it did not consider a possible acceleration of a thaw in polar regions.
"It is worrying that the most recent science points to much higher sea level rise than we have been expecting until now," European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told Reuters.
"The study is yet another reminder of how pressing it has become to tackle climate change, although this urgency is not always evident neither in the public debate nor from the pace in the international negotiations," she said.
The United Nations talks on fighting climate change are proceeding in a very low pace and the UN says promises made to limit greenhouse gas emissions are not enough to curb global warming.
The AMAP study shows that warming is accelerating and the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice free in summers within 30 to 40 years.
"There is evidence that two components of the Arctic cryosphere -- snow and sea ice -- are interacting with the climate system to accelerate warming," the study said.
BLACK HAWK: Aftermath of crash exposes some secrets.
By ROBERT BURNS
The Associated Press
Secret until now, stealth helicopters may have been key to the success of the Osama bin Laden raid. But the so-far-unexplained crash of one of the modified Black Hawks at the scene apparently compromised at least some of the aircraft's secrets.
The two choppers evidently used radar-evading technologies, plus noise and heat suppression devices, to slip across the Afghan-Pakistan border, avoid detection by Pakistani air defenses and deliver two dozen Navy SEALs into the al-Qaida leader's lair. Photos of the lost chopper's wrecked tail are circulating online -- proving it exists and also exposing sensitive details.
The reason one of the helicopters crash-landed at the bin Laden compound has not been disclosed, but Daniel Goure, a defense specialist at the Lexington Institute think tank, said Friday it might be explained by the unusual aerodynamics resulting from the aircraft's modifications.
"It could be much more difficult to fly, particularly at slow speed and landing, than you would expect from a typical Black Hawk," Goure said.
The U.S. military's first stealth aircraft, the now-defunct F-117 fighter jet, was notoriously difficult to handle in flight, officials have said.
The elite Army pilots who flew the daring mission are members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, nicknamed the Night Stalkers. Night Stalker pilots also fly other, publicly acknowledged versions of the Black Hawk that are specially equipped with advanced navigation systems, plus devices allowing for low-level and all-weather flight, day or night. Those are rigged to permit occupants to "fast rope" from the helicopter as it hovers just off the ground -- a technique used in the bin Laden assault.
Also taking part in the bin Laden mission were two MH-47 Chinooks, specially modified versions of the heavy-lift Chinook helicopters that are widely used by the Army.
The MH-47s are flown by the 160th. Those aircraft are not known to have stealth capabilities, although one was summoned to the scene of the raid after one of the stealthy Black Hawks crash-landed, to help ferry the SEAL contingent out of Pakistan.
Many aspects of stealth technology have been known for decades, including the use of angled aircraft edges and composite materials to make aircraft less visible on radar. The Army began a program to build a new class of helicopter with stealth technology in 1992. Known as the RAH-66 Comanche, it was canceled in 2004, in part to speed up development of drone aircraft.
Bill Sweetman, editor in chief of Defense Technology International and a longtime student of stealth aircraft development, said the biggest secret behind the stealth helicopter is simply that it existed.
"There was obviously a fairly high risk that you were going to compromise it one way or another the minute you used it," he said in an Associated Press interview.
A HIGH-STAKES GAMBLE
The decision to use the helicopters reflected the extraordinary stakes involved in eliminating bin Laden, the world's most wanted terrorist. It is not known whether the choppers have been used in earlier Special Operations raids, but Dick Hoffman, a former Navy SEAL and now a defense analyst at the Rand Corp. think tank, said he had never before heard of their existence.
Hoffman said in a telephone interview that the apparent stealth technology on the choppers boosted the raid's chances for success.
"Getting into the target area undetected is hugely important, especially with these terrorist targets and militia targets," he said. He noted that the SEAL team did not arrive at the Abbottabad compound in complete silence, since a resident in the same town was writing on Twitter during the raid that he could hear one or more helicopters and wondered what was happening.
But the modifications that suppressed noise from the helicopters -- including the use of extra blades in the tail rotor and placement of a hubcap-like cover on the rotor -- may have been sufficient to allow the assault teams to get on the ground before bin Laden and his security guards could mount enough of a defense to slow the SEALS; only one of the defenders was said to have gotten off a shot.
KEEP IT QUIET
Noise suppression, Goure said, is "a huge advantage in these kinds of strikes."
Some elements of that suppression technology were visible in photos of the tail section that was left behind. The main body of the copter was blown up by the SEALs before they left with bin Laden's corpse, apparently in order to prevent the exposure of other secret stealth components.
A Pentagon spokesman, Marine Col. David Lapan, declined to say Friday whether Pakistan was resisting U.S. efforts to retrieve the remains of the chopper.
Sweetman said it was remarkable that the SEALs managed to swoop into the compound and catch the bin Laden party by surprise.
"They're probably expecting that someday they could get a visit from (U.S.) Special Forces," he said. "But they would also be expecting to hear helicopters for a few minutes before they arrive overhead. If your first warning is that you hear the thing and then you look up and it's right there, you've lost valuable time."
The Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche was an advanced U.S. Army military helicopter intended for the armed reconnaissance role, incorporating stealth technologies. It was also intended to designate targets for the AH-64 Apache. The RAH-66 program was canceled in 2004 before it was fielded.
The RAH-66 is powered by two LHTEC T800 turboshaft engines. The RAH-66’s fuselage is 43 feet (13 m) long and is made of composite material. It incorporated stealth features to avoid detection, such as retractable weapon stations and main gun, and stealth faceting and radar absorbent materials. The Comanche’s noise signature is noticeably smaller than others in its class. The U.S. Army’s current armed scout helicopter is the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, but it is an upgraded version of a Vietnam War-era observation helicopter. The Comanche however was specifically tailored to the role of armed scout. It is smaller and lighter than the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.
The Comanche’s very sophisticated detection and navigation systems were intended to allow it to operate at night and in bad weather. Its airframe was designed to fit more easily than the Apache into transport aircraft or onto transport ships, enabling it to be deployed to hot spots quickly. If transport assets were not available, the Comanche’s ferry range of 1,260 nautical miles (2,330 km; 1,450 mi) would allow it to fly to battlefields overseas on its own.
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