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

Andrew Burger

Europe'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, according to recently completed EU-sponsored marine research.

Europe'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.

Sea level rise

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.

Related articles

Comments

Oceans & Forests

FEATURED
COMMUNITY