Friday, June 4, 2010

Warming threatens state's coast, scientists say

David Perlman in the San Francisco Chronicle: Northern California's two great marine sanctuaries and nearby coastal regions will be severely threatened by the planet's changing climate over the next several decades as the sea level rises, the ocean water warms, marine animals migrate and coastal storms and erosion intensify, a panel of scientists warned Thursday.

The scientists, who have been studying the issue for the past two years, said in a report that sea level at the mouth of San Francisco Bay has already risen nearly 8 inches in the past century and noted that the most recent estimates of global warming's impact on the ocean off the California coast indicate a sea level rise of 29 inches in the next 40 years and 75 inches by the end of the century.

"The effects of this rise will play out everywhere," said John Largier, a UC Davis oceanographer and chairman of a scientific advisory council that prepared the report for the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries.

Some ocean species are already adapting to warming waters off the coast by moving northward, the scientists found. For example, gray whales, which normally give birth in the warm lagoons of Baja California, are beginning to move calving grounds northward. Some whales have been observed giving birth as far north as the waters off Monterey County, the scientists noted.

"There is more and more evidence of rapid adaption by marine life to changes in the climate so far," Largier said, "but as changes grow greater, adaptation will end, and how much we will lose along the way we can't predict precisely."….

3-D perspective image of the San Francisco Bay Area from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM)

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