Scientists map out alarming future of coastlines
METHIL will be no more although Lochaber will be fine. Rising sea levels will create a new set of Scottish islands and put other areas under water, new research has revealed.
An international study of the impact of global warming has generated dramatic images of how Scotland's coastline will be transformed by climate change.
The report by a team of experts at the University of Arizona has led to calls for immediate action to deal with global warming before it is too late.
Last week, new evidence emerged that climate change could be moving faster than previously thought. Scientists have discovered fast-moving rivers flowing beneath Antarctic ice sheets which, they believe, may cause glaciers to melt and break off more quickly, in turn hastening the rise in sea levels.
The new simulations have been created by Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences at the Arizona university and a member of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) along with senior research specialist Jeremy Weiss. Using data from the US Geological Survey, they mapped the world's coastlines to show what would happen to coastal communities as seas levels rise.
The IPCC report, published a fortnight ago, forecast a worldwide average rise of between 30cm and 60cm. But regional variations across the globe mean that scientists believe the figure around the UK will be 30cm higher, meaning sea level rises of almost a metre.
The new research shows levels around Scotland would be dramatically affected:
• The Edinburgh seafront will move a mile inland, deluging areas in the north of the city such as Granton and Leith;
• Dundee west of the Tay Bridge and half a mile inland will be flooded;
• The southern part of the Rhinns of Galloway will become an island;
• Half of Alloa will end up under water, as will the west part of Dumbarton;
• Methil and Buckhaven will find themselves submerged;
• Dumfries will be a mile from the Solway Firth rather than seven;
• Cromarty and the east half of the Black Isle will go under;
• John O'Groats will no longer be the tip of the UK mainland. The north-east of Caithness will have become an island;
• Iona will disappear, as will Gigha, the Isle of Seil, and half of Tiree, Coll and Lismore;
• The Outer Hebrides' 10 inhabited islands become 12, as Lewis splits into four and North and South Uist split into two each; another two islands will go under the waves.
Overpeck, who was the lead author of one of the chapters of the IPCC report, told Scotland on Sunday: "These maps underline the urgency of the whole issue and how we have to address the issue of global warming now. A metre rise is the maximum we can expect for this century, but the risk is that through our actions we essentially commit to melting the larger ice sheets in the Arctic which could cause an even greater rise in sea levels. We have to address the issue of carbon emissions right now."
Dr Tim Osborn, from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, said: "Because sea levels are not uniform across the world a 60cm rise in average levels worldwide could mean a rise of up to 90cm around the UK by the end of the century.
"But it is not just a simple matter of saying what land lies less than a metre above sea-level and deciding that will be covered by water. Rising sea levels mean higher waves which will hit the shoreline with much more impact, potentially causing much more damage and erosion even to areas high above sea level."
Duncan McLaren, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, warned: "Even with a rise of one metre in sea levels we are talking about a massive programme of rebuilding or large-scale resettlement. This Scottish election will be the last chance to elect a government which can affect climate change. By the time of the next elections, things will already be happening."
The Executive and local authorities said their planning was broadly based on the figures underlying the new study.
An Executive spokeswoman said: "The scenarios indicate that rises in average sea level may threaten some low-lying unprotected coastal areas, yet it is the extremes of sea level - storm surges and large waves - that will cause most damage. The Scottish Executive is committed to helping local authorities increase protection for vulnerable communities through investment in flood alleviation measures and protecting the coast from erosion.
"The Executive has made 75m available to local authorities as grant support for their coast protection and flood prevention programmes over the period 2006-2008."
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North