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Coastal sea surface temperatures on the rise

Sea surface temperature (SST) measurements taken in Venice have revealed that the SST in coastal regions is rising as much as 10 times faster than the global average of 0.13 degrees per decade. Such a change could wreak havoc on coastal communities and the marine ecosystem. Th...

Sea surface temperature (SST) measurements taken in Venice have revealed that the SST in coastal regions is rising as much as 10 times faster than the global average of 0.13 degrees per decade. Such a change could wreak havoc on coastal communities and the marine ecosystem. The finding was made by researchers at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and associates. Every year, Venice is visited by as many as 22 million tourists, making tourism a year-round source of income. This means that the city's economy is dependent on it maintaining its status as one of the world's most desirable destinations. This research, however, is putting a dampener on the tourist trade by revealing that it may be subject to environmental repercussions. The trend analysis of seawater temperature in the Venice Lagoon has suggested there will be an increase during winter months 10 times greater than that predicted globally by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - a result the researchers believe is directly linked to tourism. Tourism isn't the only affected source of income; thousands of jobs in Venice rely on the survival of the fishing industry, which is directly dependent on the temperature of the coastal seawater in the Venice Lagoon. A rise in SST in the coastal zone reduces oxygen levels and displaces marine fish and associated nursery grounds, causing catastrophic fish-kill phenomena. This research has helped predict the viability of clam fisheries and aquaculture habitats serving the restaurant trade that caters for millions of tourists every year. Professor Carl Amos of Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Southampton explains the findings: 'The findings in Venice are the result of a 15-year partnership with the city; [they] are of great importance and have worldwide applications. Massive urbanisation of the coastal zones means urban heat islands represent an acute problem, particularly for the fishing industry and also for the maintenance of coastal infrastructure. The Thames, like the Venice Lagoon, is a major contributor to and casualty of the urban heat island effect. The consequences of the urban heat island effect need addressing urgently to secure the future of our coastal habitats.' The 'urban heat island effect' mentioned above is a phenomenon observed where regions experiencing rapid industrial and urban expansion produce vast amounts of heat, making the area warmer than its surroundings. Professor Amos explains further, 'The urban heat island effect is a little-considered problem with extreme consequences. Take London for example: the air temperature in the capital and the SST of the Thames is always warmer than it is in the rest of the United Kingdom. Similarly, in South Korea, an area which has seen rapid industrial expansion, the SST is rising at a rate of 0.26 degrees per decade - significantly higher than the global average. Two thirds of this rise is explained by local air temperature, which is largely driven by the urban heat island effect.' It is currently estimated that 1.6 billion people live in the world's coastal zone - which occupies 18 per cent of the world's total land mass. This means that the coastal population density is three times the global average; moreover, this population is expected to rise to 30 per cent by 2025, with trade and infrastructure at the coasts also increasing steadily. Research suggests that in coastal regions of high urban development, human activity is directly warming adjacent coastal waters, and that this contribution to global warming at the coastal zones is equal to, or greater than, other factors such as greenhouse gasses. 'The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership Report of 2006 stated that the capacity to define and predict long-term coastal changes due to human causes is "unknown" and confidence in results is "low". This is a major barrier to planning for inevitable changes in coastal SST,' says Professor Amos. 'Most of these changes at coastlines are caused by human activity, but as it is complex to consider these factors accurately, the official IPCC figures do not take these coastal "anomalies" into account.' Professor Carl Amos presented his findings at the Estuarine & Coastal Sciences Association's 'Research & management of transitional waters' international symposium, held in Lithuania from 23 to 27 September.For more information, please visit: Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Southampton: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/oes/ Estuarine & Coastal Sciences Association's 'Research & management of transitional waters' international symposium: http://corpi.ku.lt/ecsa2012/

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