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Predicting Coastal Changes On A Changing Planet

Long-term projections are needed to support effective long-term coastal planning.
by Staff Writers
Boulder CO (SPX) Nov 19, 2007
Geoscientists are beginning to unravel the complex web of interactions among climate change and geological processes that alters coastlines on which a sizeable percentage of Earth's inhabitants live. As debates over sustainable coastal development heat up, a new publication from the Geological Society of America focuses on development of integrated predictive computer models of coastal change.

Coastline Changes: Interrelation of Climate and Geological Processes reflects the many forces at work in coastal change. They include sea-level rise due to melting glaciers, depletion of groundwater reservoirs, and thermal expansion of gradually warming ocean water. Some of the underlying contributing factors include greenhouse gas additions to the atmosphere, vertical tectonic motions, sedimentary processes, and changes in atmospheric pressure systems and ocean currents, waves, and tides.

"Sea level and coastline change is an increasingly important issue for people living along the edge of Earth's oceans and seas," said William W. Hay, University of Colorado (emeritus), Boulder, Colorado, USA, co-editor of the volume. "The influence of coastal change on humankind is not a new phenomenon, however, and understanding the past provides a key to modeling future change."

Hay, along with lead editor Jan Harff, Baltic Sea Research Institute, Rostock, Germany, and co-editor Daniel Tetzlaff, Schlumberger Information Solutions, Houston, Texas, USA, emphasizes that coastal protection and sustainable development must take into account natural driving forces of change and socioeconomic reactions to those changes.

Long-term projections are needed to support effective long-term coastal planning. According to Hay, "These can be facilitated through models based on reconstruction of past sequences of events and projection of process interactions, which operate at different time scales, into the future."

According to Hay, inspiration for the book came from a session on past and future coastal change held at the 32nd International Geological Congress held in Florence, Italy, in August 2004.

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