Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The tidal cycle could amplify global-warming related sea-level rises

The results of several scientific studies conducted since 1993 have confirmed a 3.2 cm sea level rise. Although this variation might appear negligible, it has in fact turned out to be twice as high as that recorded over the whole of the previous century.

This increase in sea level is a consequence of global warming. When sea temperature rises, the sea expands and therefore occupies a greater volume. This phenomenon is now well known to scientists, but other processes that have received less research attention, such as the tidal cycle, seem to contribute at global scale just as much to changes in sea level.

A team coordinated by IRD scientists compared a series of satellite images collected at regular intervals over 20 years to measure the contribution of the bidecennial tidal cycle on global sea-level variations. In the first phase of the study, the scientists focused on the 350 km of French Guianan coastline found to be highly suitable for observation of the phenomenon.

This is a virgin region completely unaffected by any human activity and bears the certainty that the slightest change observed in the geomorphology of that coast is natural in origin. The geographical zone is moreover covered by an ecosystem of mangroves whose coastal fringe reacts almost immediately to fluctuations in marine conditions.

The study used 60 images taken by Spot, Landsat, ASAR and JERS satellites to follow-up the changes and developments of the mangrove areas over the 20-year period from 1986 to 2006, in other words a complete bidecennial tidal cycle. In parallel and over the same period, altimetric satellites (Ssalto data produced by Aviso) gave a measure of the change in the sea level. By comparing and contrasting the data resulting from these two types of satellite device, the scientists arrived at a measure of the process’s contribution of the physical features of the coastline.

Their analysis indicated that a 3% increase in tidal amplitude on the French Guiana coast, and along the whole of the 1500 km stretch of coastline of the Guiana Plateau, induced more than 100 m of coastal erosion and shoreline retreat during the first ten years of the cycle. A subsequent 3% fall in the course of the second half of the cycle then allowed regeneration of the mangrove colonies, a sure sign of coastal advance.

The results also suggested that 75% of the rise of the open sea level recorded for this coastal zone during the first ten years of the cycle was attributable to the tidal cycle.

On the Guiana Plateau coast, the tidal range –the difference between the high-tide and low-tide water levels– is quite low as it settles at around two metres on average. In this context, it is predicted that between 2006 and 2015 the rise in open sea level, directly linked to the bidecennial cycle, will not exceed a few centimetres. It should therefore be about the same order of magnitude as the sea level increase linked to thermal expansion of the ocean.

Extrapolation of the results obtained for the Guiana Plateau coast led to an estimate of the impact of the tidal cycle on the sea level rise at global scale (see Map).

Coastal zones exist where the tidal range is much more spectacular in size than on the Guianan coasts. At Mont Saint-Michel in France, for example, it can be more than 12 m. And in Ungava Bay, on the East coast of Canada, where the world’s largest tidal amplitudes are recorded, it reaches as high as 20 m. In these regions, from the present day (2008) to 2015, the bidecennial tidal cycle could cause a rise in the open sea level of more than 50 cm, or 25 times greater than the rise linked to global-warming induced oceanic thermal expansion. Over the period 2015-2025, the second phase of this cycle is predicted to contribute to a regular fall in the open sea level.

At planetary scale, it could thus partly compensate for the effects of the global-warming related rise in the sea water. Thanks to a better awareness of the cyclic nature of the tides, probably one of the most predictable cyclic systems in the world, this research should, over the next 20 years, lead to a better understanding of coastal geomorphology and in particular the processes of coastal erosion.

1. This work was conducted jointly with the University of Dunkirk, the Institut National de Recherche Agronomique (INRA) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (United States)

2. This is a tidal cycle established highly precisely at 18.6 years during which the average level of open seas rises by 3% per year for the first half of this cycle then falls by 3% over the 9 years that follow.

Grégory Fléchet | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>