Irish Sea level to rise 47cm by end of century

Sat, Jun 2, 2012, 01:00

THE IRISH Sea’s level will rise by almost half a metre by the end of the century, according to new research published by NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute.

More extreme coastal flooding will occur in Dublin and other vulnerable urban areas in Ireland and Britain, and sea surface temperatures will increase by 1.9 degrees, according to the research.

The research confirms previous “tentative” studies but is the most comprehensive study of the area to date, according to Dr Mike Hartnett of the institute.

This first “model-based projection” used three-dimensional hydrodynamic modelling technology to predict future changes, he said.

He said potential sea level rises of about 47cm will cause more severe coastal flooding than experienced to date due to storm surges. The 2009 flooding of Cork city illustrates the vulnerability of coastal communities in certain conditions, he said.

In addition, the temperature increases will have implications for ecosystems, fishing and sea transport, he said.

Warming in the western Irish Sea’s deep channel will generally be weaker, with seasonal variability subdued due to a large heat storage capacity, he said. The warming will be stored largely in the surface layer of the water, affecting water circulation, fisheries, transport of pollutants and the ecosystem in general.

“Future changes to oceanographic parameters, flushing times and hydrodynamics of the Irish Sea are likely to alter the habitat and distribution of marine species,” he said.

“The Irish Sea, being semi-enclosed, has a unique and complex geography which influences its currents.”

The research is published in the current edition of the journal Continental Shelf Research. It was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Higher Education Authority’s third-level research programme.

Earlier this week Met Éireann published figures which showed a 0.75 degree rise in temperature in Ireland over the past two decades.

The figures also indicated heavier rainfall, with Ireland on average 5 per cent wetter over the 30 years to 2010 than between 1961 and 1990.