Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

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

23.05.2008
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:
http://www.ird.fr/us/actualites/fiches/2008/fas295.pf

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia

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: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Epoxy compound gets a graphene bump

14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal

14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>