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Climate Change: Sea Level Rise

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1 Climate Change: Sea Level Rise
Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Climate Change before. One of the effects of climate change is that temperature can increase in the ocean, on land and in the atmosphere. Today, we’re going to explore sea level rise.

2 Climate Change Weather vs. Climate Effects of climate change:
Weather: day to day changes in temperature, rainfall, cloudiness, moisture Climate: long term changes in weather patterns on our planet Effects of climate change: Sea level rise (today’s activity) Warmer sea surface temperatures Drought (water shortage), flooding A simple way of remembering the difference is that 'climate' is what you expect (cool, wet winters) and 'weather' is what you get (a foggy morning with afternoon sunshine).

3 Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System
How do you think scientists observe the ocean? This is a cartoon drawing of some of the parts of the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS) – a program based at University of Hawaii – Manoa. What do you see in this drawing of our ocean observing system? We can see climate change happening with many of these sensors. Let’s find out how! This is a representation of what our ocean observing system looks like in Mamala Bay – or the south shore of Oahu. We see ships, a satellite (which talks to/communicates with many of the instruments in or on the water), an airplane (used to survey larger areas of the ocean than can be viewed from shore or on a boat); an AUV (yellow/black/red torpedo-shape; Autonomous Underwater Vehicle; cruises for a day collecting temperature, salinity, chlorophyll, and looks at the bottom of the shallow ocean); Kilo Nalu Reef Observatory (cable that extends from shore and has sensors attached such as temp, salinity, chlorophyll sensors; also has current meters (yellow beams of energy that “look” up and measure current throughout the water column); fish that hopefully have been tagged and are “talking” to satellites (also see these) to tell us where they are and what the water is like there; gliders (that cruise for up to 7 months, down to 1000 m or 3300 ft); buoys (yellow above water, black below water on left and middle); near shore sensors (white cylinders); camera (star)

4 Pictured are 1) a tiger shark swimming with a satellite tag, 2) a stripped marlin with a satellite tag, and 3) a tiger shark that has been caught and will be tagged. As sharks, marlin, tuna, and turtles move around the Pacific, they are tracked using satellite tags that are surgically implanted at sea. One really cool thing about the sharks is that when they are caught, researchers roll them over (so they are upside down) and it, temporarily, puts the shark to sleep (don’t know why this happens). I don’t recommend you try doing this! This is how the researchers are able to take measurements of them and attach the satellite tags. These tags tell us where the shark is, what temperature the water is that the shark is swimming in, and how deep they have been diving. So in this way, animals are acting as oceanographers – helping to gather information about the temperature and ecology of the ocean. Shark movements can inform us about the ecology of the ocean – where sharks go might be related to food source or mating habits. PacIOOS has many tags on sharks, tuna, marlin and turtles around the Hawaiian Islands.

5 Shown in this picture is a diver working on the sensors at the Kilo Nalu Reef Observatory -- that’s a set of sensors (also called instruments) that are connected to a cable that runs from shore to underwater off Kaka’ako. This Observatory (we just call it Kilo Nalu) measures temperature, salinity, currents, chlorophyll, turbidity (how turbid or clear the water is) and there is a camera mounted above the frame that photographs the bottom of the ocean. Water quality tells us how clean the water is. Would you rather swim in clean or dirty water? Divers work on sensors at the Kilo Nalu Reef Observatory which monitor water quality and temperature

6 Coastal Wave Buoy Measurements
HIOOS Coastal Wave Buoy Measurements Wave buoys monitor wave height, direction, and period around the Pacific Ocean This picture shows one of the wave buoys that we use to measure wave height, wave direction (whether from the north, south, east or west), and wave period (how frequently the waves come – every 2 seconds or every 13 seconds, etc.). This allows us to know what the waves are like at our favorite beaches without having to go see. PacIOOS has wave buoys around the Hawaiian Islands. If you are interested in viewing some of this data, visit the PacIOOS website (

7 CO2 Buoy – South Shore Oahu
THIS buoy is the top dog in monitoring climate change! Remember we’ve talked about temperature being one of the major effects of climate change so naturally, this buoy measures temperature. The other important thing that is buoy measures is carbon dioxide. This buoy also measures salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll, and turbidity. There are 2 of these buoys near Oahu – one off Waikiki (shown in the big picture above), and one in Kaneohe Bay (shown in inset picture). Data from this buoy can be viewed at the PacIOOS website ( Raise your hand if you’ve heard of carbon dioxide or CO2. CO2 is related to the temperature of the ocean, land, and atmosphere. When there is more CO2 in the air, more heat from the sun gets trapped near the surface of the earth. This causes temperatures to rise in the air and in the ocean. This is why monitoring CO2 in the air is a very important part of monitoring climate change. Temperature Carbon Dioxide Salinity Oxygen Chlorophyll Turbidity Photo courtesy of R. David Beales, UH Creative Services

8 Coastal Wave Buoy Measurements
Sea Level Stations HIOOS Coastal Wave Buoy Measurements Tide gauge stations all over the world continuously monitor water level Sea level stations or tide gauges, measure continually monitor the water level in the ocean. There are many sea level stations around the world. Shown on the left is a tide gauge mounted on a dock.

9 CO2 and Climate Change Greenhouse effect – makes life on Earth possible CO2 comes from natural and man made sources: Natural: animal respiration, volcanoes Man made: burning fossil fuels (cars, planes, electricity), deforestation (cutting/burning trees) Too much CO2 causes too much warming Raise your hand if you’ve heard of carbon dioxide or CO2. The greenhouse effect is the warming of the earth caused by certain gasses (water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane) in the atmosphere that absorb radiation from the sun. So CO2 in the atmosphere is related to the temperature of Earth. When there is more CO2 in the air, more heat from the sun gets trapped near the surface of the earth. This causes temperatures to rise in the air and in the ocean. This is why monitoring CO2 in the air is a very important part of monitoring climate change. CO2 comes from natural sources (which are balanced by natural processes that remove CO2 from the atmosphere – like photosynthesis). More recently (in the last 150 years), human activities have been adding CO2 to the atmosphere but there is no process that removes it as quickly as we add it. This increase in CO2 causes warming. You can do your part too by following some of the tips on the included Tips Sheet.

10 What affects sea level on short time scales?
Tides Weather storms, hurricanes, waves El Nino can lower or raise sea level depending on location OK. Now you know why climate change happening and now we want to talk about sea level rise. Before we do that, we need to understand what changes sea level. On timescales of days, weeks or months, the observed sea level is affected by tides, weather events (such as storms, hurricanes, and waves), El Nino (in S. America, this causes warmer water, decreased fishing catches, possible flooding, and potentially higher sea levels; in the western Pacific, this causes decreased rain or even drought and possibly lower sea levels). El Nino is a change in the way the Pacific ocean and the atmosphere interact – this changes weather and climate around the world.

11 What causes global sea level rise?
Climate Change Increasing temperatures cause melting ice in alpine glaciers, Greenland, and Antarctica Warming causes thermal expansion of ocean water – like air and other fluids, water expands as the temperature increases

12 Types of ice Land-based ice (freshwater) Sea ice (seawater)
Glacier Land-based ice (freshwater) Glaciers, icebergs Ice sheets (Antarctica and Greenland) Alpine (mountain) ice Sea ice (seawater) Forms in the sea as water freezes Floating in water Alpine Ice There are 2 main types of ice that we have to consider when talking about sea level rise: Land based ice (the source of this is land based freshwater) and Sea ice (the source of this is freezing sea ice when temperatures are cold enough in high latitudes). If land-based ice melts and flows into the ocean, new water is being added to the ocean (since this water was previously on land as freshwater). So this causes sea level to rise. Since sea ice is formed when water that is already in the ocean freezes, melting this ice doesn’t change the amount of space that the water takes up. In other words, melting sea ice does not change sea level. Sea Ice Photo credit: NSIDC

13 What are the effects of sea level rise?
Coastal flooding Contaminating drinking water with seawater Increases impact of storms Increases risk of coastal erosion - As the sea level rises, flooding is more likely in low lying coastal areas. Where there are coastal aquifers, the drinking water supply is at risk for being contaminated by ocean water as the sea level rises and starts to intrude into the aquifer. The effects of storms are made worse if sea level is higher. With a higher sea level, water and waves can wash farther up on shore – making areas farther inland more vulnerable to erosion.

14 Future Sea Level Rise Prediction: Sea level will rise 1 m (3.3 ft) in the next 100 years Many areas in Hawaii are close to sea level Data from UH Coastal Geology Group The blue line represents where the shoreline will be if the sea level rises 1 m.


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