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September 20 2011


Warming Climate Brings Sea Level Rise, Land Loss and Marine Migrations to Europe’s Seas

Sea level rise in EuropeEurope’s seas are changing at an unprecedented rate, much faster than climate scientists anticipated.
Seawater temperatures have been rising around 10-times faster than average over the past 25 years, while wind speeds have also been increasing. The combination of rising sea levels and stronger winds has resulted in the loss of 15% of Europe’s coasts.

European sea surface temperature increases were three to six-times higher than the global average from 1986-2006, a research team found, as Arctic sea ice has melted, according to the Climate Change and European Marine Ecosystem Project Report (CLAMER).

“Change has been clearly visible and is much more rapid than we thought was possible,” Carlo Heip, chair of the CLAMER project and lead author of the report, told Reuters last Tuesday.

Melting ice sheets and glaciers add more uncertainty regarding how fast sea levels will rise, which threatens populations in all low-lying areas of Europe. Current estimates for 2100 suggest European sea levels could rise 60 centimeters and up to 1.9 meters along some parts of the U.K. coast.

“Scenario simulations suggest that by the end of the 21st century, the temperature of the Baltic Sea may have increased by 2 to 4 degrees centigrade, the North Sea by 1.7 degrees, and the Bay of Biscay by 1.5 to 5 degrees,” the researchers found.

These aren’t the only large-scale change taking place, offshore or on-shore, as a result of relatively abrupt changes in climate, they noted.

Ocean warming and the melting of sea ice across the Arctic Ocean off Russia’s northern coast is bringing about changes in the marine food chain as marine life migrates to the Atlantic from the Pacific. Some species may wind up being able to thrive in their new environments, but the migrations are bound to have significant impacts on fish populations, as well as commercial fisheries and the human populations that depend on them, according to the report.

The CLAMER research team also found that some strains of bacteria were becoming more prevalent, potentially becoming threats to human health. Strains of cholera have increased in the North Sea over the past 50 years, they noted, perhaps due to changing seawater temperatures.

The research team urged European Union officials “to keep its finger on the pulse” of marine climate change, urging, among, among other recommendations, greater study of sea level changes due to the break-up of ice sheets and melting, coastal erosion, temperature changes, ocean acidification, marine ecosystems and ocean circulation changes.

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August 25 2011


50 Million Year Old Fossil Clams Shed Light on El Nino and Global Warming

One current climate theory suggests that global warming could result in El Nino conditions becoming permanent as opposed to occurring in prevailing two-to seven-year cycles. New research based on a study of a long-lived species of fossilized clam that lived of the coast of Antarctica indicates that was not the case during the early Eocene, when the Earth was as warm as it’s been in the last 65 million years.

El Nino is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific, which can result in torrential rains in Peru and drought in Australia. It’s “the warm phase of a large oscillation in which the surface temperature of the tropical Pacific varies, causing changes in winds and rainfall patterns,” explains the Physorg,com report. The complete phenomenon is known as the El Nino Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.

Prevailing climate theory suggests that global warming could cause the ENSO to collapse and would result in permanent El Nino conditions.

New research conducted by a team led by Syracuse University researcher Linda Ivany suggest otherwise, however. Ivany led an international team that studied a species of fossilized clam that could live more than 100 years during a time when Antarctica was as warm as Virginia is today. It turns out that the clams’ growth rings can be analyzed akin to the way tree rings are analyzed, providing a long-term picture of ancient climatic conditions.

The team found that the distances between consecutive bands in the clams’ shells varied with a two-to seven-year periodicity typical of El Nino’s periodicity. They also found the same pattern in fossilized driftwood found buried in sediments along with the clams.

“While it might sound counterintuitive, it turns out that the inter-annual climate variations seen in the tropical Pacific today are strongly teleconnected to the Antarctic. This seems to have also been the case 50 million years ago,” Ivany said.

“The good news is that despite the very warm temperatures during the Eocene, the evidence from the clams and tree rings shows that the ENSO system was still active, oscillating between normal and El Niño years. That suggests that the same will be true in our future as the planet warms up again.”

Image Credit: Rick Schrantz, Kentucky Paleontological Society

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October 04 2010

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