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SEALEVEL CHANGES Dr. Thrivikramji.K.P. thrivikramji@gmail.

com Introduction Among the coastal communities, with tide rising and falling, changes in sealevel are an every day phenomenon. Moreover, in the minds of settlers in certain parts of the globe like Venice rising trend in sea-level was beyond anybodys doubt as they lived with the consequences of rising sea-level right before their eyes. Even though among the trained mind, geologists were the first recognize evidences of past sealevel stands especially along the coastal lands and imprinted on the ground or in the landscape, such changes were considered to be events of the geologic past and perhaps no longer in action now until extensive records of tide gauge data were subjected to careful scrutiny. When Glacial geologists reached the unequivocal choice of looking at the global sea as the contributor to the extensive continental ice sheets of Pleistocene, the idea of lower global sealevel stand during glaciations became a scientific truism. Alongside, other side of the coin of lower sea level of glacial epochs was a rise in sea level during the interglacials and later now by globally driven warming of the atmosphere and consequent waning of glaciers and ice sheets. In fact, SL never stayed steady even in the geologic past, instead there was a procession of sealevel change in the past geological ages as depicted in the sealevel curve (Exxon SL curve) designed by Vail. Table 1 General Predictions on extent of SLR Hoffman (1984) Raper et. Al (1988) Climatic Research Unit, Univ. of E.Anglia Barnet (1984), Gornitz & Lebedev (1987) GLOSS- Global sea level observing system, UNESCO 1.0 m in next 50 100 yr.- might even reach meter by end of the century 12-18 cm rise by 2030 10-15 cm rise in the past century; now rises at 1.2mm/yr Global net-work of tide gauges to monitor SLR

Though fall in sea level and formation of glaciers were a gradual but steady phenomenon, the post-glacial rise of sea level largely due to setting in of warmer climate, was anything but gradual as a result of regional and local variations in the nature of rocks and consequent differences in response to glacial offloading and variability in the tectonic make up. The post-industrial revolution times, as the per capita consumption of coal and later oil also went up hugely, effluents rich in what are called green house gases, released to the atmosphere triggered what is called green house gas forced heating or warming of lower troposphere. Immediate consequence of such warming was increased melting or wasting of snow and ice in the poles as well as in the continents. An immediate consequence of such melting of ice and snow was addition of added volumes of water to the oceans forcing the sealevel to rise to the dismay of the coastal

communities in all the continents. The warmer lower troposphere also contributes to the warming of surface sea water tending to raise the sea level due thermal expansion of sea water. Though scientific research and activist groups in several countries cautioned the major GHG producing industrial countries on the climate change forcing due to GHG, the award of this years Nobel peace prize for the IPCC report on sealevel created an increased awareness on the dangers and threats in the minds of general public in every littoral country of the world. Evidences of SL changes Coastal geology and geomorphology always offered ample scientific basis for changing SLs. Coastal geomorphological studies using aerial photographs and satellite imageries too helped to decipher the structural make up of the basins of sediment accumulation. Progression and orientation of strand lines were easily and convincingly understood and deciphered from such tools. Another area of investigation of tide gauge data gathered from stations attached to harbours and ports distributed in various continents. Length of record, quality and style data keeping were critical to use or rejection of any data set. Recently, Unnikrishnans (NIO) work based on tide gauge data pertaining to is also a case in point. Oceanographers and marine geologists were driven to examine the tide gauge data to examine the behaviour of SL in the past and present century, where ever tide data permitted. Shepard and students launched global study of tide gauge data, which led them to unequivocally believe that SL has been changing during the study period. Straigraphic analysis of sediment fills in the coastal plain by Kraft students of university of Delaware added a good deal of new knowledge on the sedimentary features of transgressions or regressions since the Pleistocene. Causes of SLR Causes of SLR can be broadly grouped into geological (tectonic, eustatic etc.) and anthropogenic (green house gas driven) causes. Geologic causes manifest in geomorphology, stratigraphy, basin frame work etc. As geologists we have studied and mapped the rock formations of marine and non-marine affinities now exposed in various parts of the country. How ever, such occurrences were explained as due to transgression and regressions of sea in the geologic past. But in the past, driving mechanisms of such environmental changes did not attract any great attention by geologists. It was the oil geology which came face to face with the issues of such environmental changes and came up with empirical suggestions. For e.g., the repetition of carbonate-seat earthcoal triplets or cyclothems of Kansas, warranted an explanation and simplified proposal was that the shore line was oscillating forcing the environment to change from marine to nomarine in successively due to forcing by tectonism. However, later suggestions actually called for migration of shoreline back and forth and not tectonism. Even modulation of sediment supply from sources outside the basin can lead to changing environments and hence environments of deposition. Isotasy (continental scale balancing and consequent movements) and eustasy (local) are phenomena very familiar to geologists and as geologists we know that the concept of isostasy had an Indian origin. Eustasy on the other hand originated in the continents which had gone through continental scale glaciation, where local but dramatic

evidences for relative rises of land mass occurred in plenty. Terms like glacial eustasy(elevation change due to ice loading), sedimento-eustasy (due to sediment loading) and hydro-eustasy (water loading) have been coined. Out side of these natural causes, in modern times, the sea level has been affected globally by anthropogenic reasons, I.e., SLR due to GHE. Basis of Green house effect (GHE) Now practically most of the citizens are aware of causes and consequences of SLR. The rise in the air temperature (or lower tropospheric warming) is cause by continued accumulation of so called green house gases like, CO2 along with methane, moisture, CFCs, CO, NOx etc which are mostly originate as effluents, from one or other sort of machine powered by one or other type of fossil fuel derivative, which directly or indirectly contributes to the better quality of life we enjoy. Table 2. Consequences of Global Warming a. Green House Effect: Global lower tropo-spheric warming leads to rise of snowline, increased melting of ice and snow in glaciers, ice sheets including polar ice sheets. Melt water reaching sea will tend to push the SL upward. b. Steric effect: Warming of air drives seawater temperature forcing it to go for a volumetric expansion and consequent enlargement of water volume leading to global rise in S L (Barth & Titus, 1984). These gases and especially CO2 trapped in the lower atmosphere forms a gaseous shield; prevent escape of heat radiating back (as long wave radiation) to the atmosphere at night when the earth materials begin to cool at the end of each day. However, the incoming shorter wave radiation easily penetrates the gaseous envelope. Ever increasing use of fossil fuels by the various nations of the world contributes ever increasing volumes of GHGs to the atmosphere. In general most of the coastal features we come across now have come into being since the last 6000 yr. except in the sectors where there was an express tendency for land subsidence (Bloom, 1977). If all the ice sheets and glaciers were to melt SL will rise by 60.0 m (Donn 1962). A consequence of SLR will be under cutting of Cliffs forcing the landward retreat of the cliff line and encroachment by shoreline. The cliffs around peninsular India (most of which had formed on headlands) show evidence of change. Consequence cliff erosion due to rising SL is the creation of underwater platforms. Rising levels will create plenty of features of submergence leading to deepening of coastal lagoons. By continued SLR the sea might even occupy portions of the sector it once owned during the Pleistocene. The MOE&F had launched a study of the consequences of SLR due to GHE in the 90s, for the littoral states of India, viz., Gujarath, MAharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal). As result of this study, there is some level of understanding on the potential loss to the states as well as to the nation. Sea level trends

Tide gauge data generally show changes in sea level due to rise in sea level due to additional water reaching the ocean, neo-tectonic fall in land elevations and shifts ocean currents (Gornitaz, 1989). Estimated SLR trends are summarised in Table 3. The proposed global sea level rise curve by Fairbridge (1961) became in applicable to many coastal areas due to non-uniformity in neotectonism of landmasses in question and hence eustasy. Therefore, design and use of local sealevel change curves became more meaningful and reliable, that such efforts were launched by various groups in different countries. A local SLR curve for west coast of India was published by Kale & Rajaguru (1985) depicting a steep rise to 60 m by the end of Pleistocene and then climbing convexly up crossing the current SL at 6000 yr. B.P. to further follow a mildly rising trend. Table 3. Estimated eustatic SLR, by 2100 AD (Gornitz 1990) Cause Range , m Source Aalpine glaciers 0.10-0.30 Khun (1989) Greenland 0.13-0.35 Bindschadler (1985) Antartic 0.2-03 Thomas (1986) Thermal expansion 0.11-0.37 Wigley & Raper (1987) Total 0.54- 1.32 Summary Sealevel changes have been familiar to geologists and especially to oil geologists. Anthropogenic addition of GHG to the atmosphere increases the pace of global warming by trapping long wave heat radiation in the atmosphere leading to rise of terrestrial heat levels (temperature) and a global scale wasting or melting of ice sheets, glaciers and polar ice sheets. An IGCP project of UNESCO provided an impetus to study and document Post Pleistocene sealevel changes in most of the coastal states in various continents - peninsular India included. Tamil University, Thanjavur had organized two seminars along these lines offering a platform for exchange of ideas and presentation of views for the workers scattered across the country. Remote sensing tools have been extensively used by geologists in the universities (especially Bharathi Dasan University in the south) and GSI to map the successive SL stands in the coastal land of Indian landmass. Due to impending threat to the population and resources in the coastal land, global SLR has become a natural concern of administration and public alike in India too and the concern has also been now shared by the Nobel award committee. ---------------------