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arrow Patterns of land uplift


Scottish Sea Level

11. Cl
imate change and sea level

Scotland sea levelSome researchers are examining the effects on Scotland of the present rise in sea surface levels across much of the globe due to climate change (as summarised in Smith et al., 2000). Isobase maps of land uplift help to define the areas likely to be affected markedly by sea surface rise. Such areas are undoubtedly the Outer Hebrides and Northern Isles, far from the former main centres of ice, where land uplift today is small or absent and where the sea surface is gaining on the land. While Britain understandably worries about sea level rise in the heavily populated South-East, it is perhaps worth sparing a thought for the islands beyond the Scottish mainland, where the threat is real and continuing, and where communities, though small, may be equally affected in the future.

Scottish scientists led the world in the nineteenth century in sea level studies and established concepts which endure today. After a period of little development in the early twentieth century, sea level studies in Scotland saw a revival of interest in the early 1960s. There is now the prospect of a new era in sea level research, in which the very detailed studies being undertaken in Scotland may help improve understanding of both the movement of the earth’s crust in the form of isostatic processes and the detailed changes of sea level at the coast. In a world of changing climates, such a prospect is timely.