11. Climate change and sea level
Some 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.