Nav: Home

A crab's eye view of rising tides in a changing world

January 25, 2017

Coastal ecosystems and aquifers will be greatly affected by climate change, not only from rising temperatures and more volatile weather, including changes in precipitation patterns, but also from sea level rise.

In the search for methods to analyze these effects, researchers at NJIT have identified powerful statistical tools that should help coastal scientists both measure and anticipate changes in conditions such as subsurface water temperature and salinity. Results from the study, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have been published in Scientific Reports, an online affiliate of Nature.

The tools, known as spectral and co-spectral techniques, required a large data set for validation, which the authors obtained from two beaches in Prince William Sound in Alaska. In particular, they looked at the impact of sea level variability on these beaches, collecting a year's worth of data on water pressure, water temperature and salinity at thirty-minute intervals from sensors embedded in the sand.

Using these techniques to identify trends within the data, they found that at most locations, the effects of sea level rise were first seen in the water pressure in aquifers, followed by changes in salinity and then temperature. Following in the wake of the other two leading indicators, or warning signals, it appears that changes in temperature would take longer to be felt inland than rising salinity.

"Changes in the temperature were sometimes seen a week later than both rising water pressure and salinity. We attribute this to soil grains acting as a thermal buffer, absorbing a non-negligible fraction of the heat carried by seawater and fresh groundwater. Thus, even if the sea temperature should change suddenly, it would take a week or more for its effects on coastal aquifers to subside," said Michel Boufadel, director of NJIT's Center for Natural Resources Development and Protection (NRDP), a professor of environmental engineering and an author of the study.

Water pressure was the first to change as water is incompressible and thus transmits pressure rapidly. Rising salinity, by comparison, is mitigated by the spreading and dilution of seawater when it interacts with fresh groundwater coming from the upland behind the beach.

"All of these changes, including the off-kilter sequence of salinity and temperature fronts at a particular locale, could have ramifications for animal and plant life in the aquifer ecosystem," said Xiaolong Geng, a postdoctoral fellow at NJIT and an author of the study. "We believe that regular data-keeping at short intervals will allow us to also monitor the pace and dynamics of change in these vulnerable regions."

In particular, the researchers say, in conditions of low soil permeability where changes in water pressure and temperature are typically distantly connected, current predictive models that extend out beyond a week would likely decline in accuracy. Such approaches would need to be "anchored" to regular collection of data on water pressure, salinity, and temperature in the way meteorological models are corrected by measurements at given times and locations, such as at rain stations at airports. The researchers conclude that measurements of coastal ecosystem features should take place at once per week or more.
-end-
About NJIT

One of the nation's leading public technological universities, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a top-tier research university that prepares students to become leaders in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st century. NJIT's multidisciplinary curriculum and computing-intensive approach to education provide technological proficiency, business acumen and leadership skills. With an enrollment of 11,400 graduate and undergraduate students, NJIT offers small-campus intimacy with the resources of a major public research university. NJIT is a global leader in such fields as solar research, nanotechnology, resilient design, tissue engineering, and cybersecurity, in addition to others. NJIT ranks 5th among U.S. polytechnic universities in research expenditures, topping $121 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to PayScale.com. NJIT has a $1.74 billion annual economic impact on the State of New Jersey.

New Jersey Institute of Technology

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...