Sea level Rise
RISING SEA LEVELS THREATENS A SIGNIFICANT PERCENTAGE OF THE WORLD POPULATION
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By Cori Marshall
On June 1, the Science Media Centre of Canada (SMCC) hosted an expert panel entitled Sea Level Rise and Climate Change. The panel sought to explain the science, challenge misconceptions, and raise tough questions. The event was organized to drive home the fact that "the latest research published just two weeks ago shows rising sea levels will double the frequency of severe coastal flooding, with dire consequences for major cities that sit on coastlines."
Dr Adam Fenech, Director of the Climate Lab at the University of Prince Edward Island, spoke about CLIVE or the CoastaL Impacts Visualization Environment. Fenech described CLIVE as "a tool for understanding sea level rise, storm surges, and coastal erosion." Fenech underlined "some of the higher sea level rise predictions," are for the Eastern Seaboard of North America, and current predictions are for a rise of between 2 and 2.6 m.
Fenech and his team put the sea level rise data into a video game, CLIVE, which allows the user to navigate a virtual reality environment and move through time to see the impacts of the changes. When communities in PEI saw the data visualized in the manner "concern was very high, and a willingness to adapt increased so they could take action."
Dr Natacha Bernier, Atmospheric Science and Technology branch, Environment and Climate Change Canada, said "there is no one small area that is at risk, this is something that concerns everybody living along the coast in Atlantic Canada." Bernier added that there are "22 tide gauges that record total water level." measuring the elevation of the water every six minutes.
From the data gathered the tide level is subtracted to give what is called storm surge, which Bernier described as "the effect of wind and pressure on the sea level." Fall and winter present the highest risk for storm surges. The impact of a storm surge is dependent on the tide, at low tide it may not be noticed, though if they occur at high tide "they may push the total sea level beyond the flood line".
Dr Martin Sharp, Professor. Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, focused on how "sea level rise in response to climate change has the potential to displace significant fractions of the globe's human population." Sharp pointed to evidence that some world governments are beginning to take action to address the issue. India has built a fence along its border with Bangladesh, Sharp added that "many people are starting to think that it has a lot to do with being able to regulate the flow of sea level refugees," in the future.
Sharp underlined that sea level "has risen 9 inches in 130 years, 2.5 inches since 1994."
Sea level rise is happening, and there is more and more data confirming it. Everyone who lives in a coastal area is at risk. The situation is best summed up in question that Dr Sharp put forward, "in the event of the combination of sea level rise and an extreme event like a storm surge or a tsunami where will all these displaced people go, how will we manage their movement, and how will we accommodate them?"
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