Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sea surface temperature a leading climate issue

Saipan Tribune: Although most people correlate climate change with rising sea levels, the first big effect of climate change to the Pacific will be a rise in sea surface temperature, affecting storms, droughts and coral ecosystems, a marine researcher said at the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable being held here.

Paul Anderson, a marine resource analyst, said projections show air temperature could rise 2 degrees Celsius to 6.4 degrees Celsius by 2100. Anderson works for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, a regional organization based in Apia that is charged with protecting and managing the region's environment and natural resources.

“This warming is causing sea-level rise that will gradually inundate coastal areas and increase beach erosion and flooding from coastal storms, changes in precipitation patterns, increased risk of droughts and floods, threats to biodiversity, and a number of potential challenges for public health,” he said. Sea levels could rise by .35 to 1 meter in the next century, depending on the arctic glacial stability, Anderson said. This will cause more frequent and more intense storms, one of the first visible effects of climate change.

Coral reefs are also being affected by the changing climate. Seventy-five percent of the world's reefs are found in the Indo-Pacific region, but the coal cover has been cut in half since 1980 from 42 percent to 22 percent. “If modeling projections are even close to valid, corals and reefs will be severely tested by the end of the century, possibly sooner,” Anderson said….

Aerial view of Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, shot by Pdmiller, who has generously released it into the public domain on Wikimedia Commons. Thanks, Pdmiller

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