How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

Click to locate material archived on our website by topic

Climate Change-Induced Storminess Over the Eastern Irish Sea
Esteves, L.S., Williams, J.J. and Brown, J.M. 2011. Looking for evidence of climate change impacts in the eastern Irish Sea. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 11: 1641-1656.

The authors write that "climate change is expected to affect the frequency, trajectory and intensity of storms (IPCC, 2007) which in turn may increase the occurrence of extreme water levels through the combined effect of rising sea level and higher storm surges (e.g. Wang et al., 2008)."

What was done
Focusing on a well-studied and data-rich 16-km-long section of the Sefton coastline of northwest England, as they describe it, Esteves et al. used the longest available measured datasets from the eastern Irish Sea and beyond -- including tide levels, surge heights, wind speeds and wave heights -- in a search for evidence of long-term changes in the metocean climate, after which they analyzed data defining the rate of change in shoreline position at the study site derived from a range of historical maps and aerial photographs for the period 1894-2005, with the primary aim of assessing "whether temporal changes in the rates and magnitudes of coastal erosion can be attributed to the observed trends in metocean data, and if these trends can, in turn, be associated with climate change."

What was learned
The three UK researchers say their results "show no evidence of enhanced storminess or increases in surge heights or extreme water levels," and that "the evolution of the coastline analyzed at various temporal scales shows no strong connection with metocean trends." In addition, they report that with the exception of mean monthly wind speed (which trended slightly upwards at one site and slightly downwards at another), the available metocean data "do not indicate any statistically significant changes outside seasonal and decadal cycles."

What it means
In the case of this host of "no-change" findings regarding storminess, as well as its causes and consequences, we have yet another example of real-world data providing absolutely no support for a major worrisome expectation of the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in yet another part of the world.

IPCC. 2007. Summary for Policymakers. In: Solomon, S., Qin, D., Manning, M., Chen, Z., Marquis, M., Averyt, K.B., Tignor, M. and Miller, H.L. (Eds.) The Physical Science Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, New York, USA.

Want, S., McGrath, R., Hanafin, J.A., Lynch, P., Semmler, T. and Nolan, P. 2008. The impact of climate change on storm surges over Irish waters. Ocean Modelling 25: 83-94.

Reviewed 31 August 2011