Land subsidence on Spanish coast increases risk of sea level rise

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land subsidence

MADRID – The coastal areas of the Mediterranean are facing a dual threat. Not only is the sea level rising due to climate change, but the land in certain areas is also sinking.

This phenomenon puts more than 38,000 square kilometres of coastline at risk, according to recent research. A study led by researchers from the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) and the Dutch Radboud University reveals that in some parts of the Mediterranean, the sea level is rising up to three times faster than in areas where there is no land subsidence. The culprit behind this significant rise is subsidence, the sinking of the ground caused by natural or human activities.

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Antonio Vecchio, one of the researchers, emphasises: “Our analysis shows that due to land subsidence in certain Mediterranean areas, the sea level is rising almost three times faster than in stable areas.”

Revision of previous estimates

The researchers based their study on sea level rises as described in the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), AR6. Their findings suggest that this report may underestimate the future rise in sea level. They compared these estimates with observations from 51 points along the Mediterranean coast and satellite data on vertical land movements. On average, the sea level had risen eight centimetres more than predicted. These findings were published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

38,500 square kilometres at risk

According to the research, this could lead to the loss of 38,500 square kilometres of land to the sea by the year 2150 in the Mediterranean area. About 19,000 of these are located on the northern coast.

Risk to the Spanish East Coast

Countries such as Egypt, Italy, and France face the greatest risk of land subsidence, but Spain is also affected. Risk areas include the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, such as the Ebro Delta.

Far-reaching consequences

This phenomenon does not only concern future land loss. The rising sea level increases the risk of flooding in coastal cities and has a particularly large impact on beaches. This, in turn, affects tourism. The loss of coastal areas can also harm fisheries and pose new risks to coastal infrastructure such as ports. In coastal cities, the consequences can extend to homes and businesses. This complex situation urgently requires attention and action to mitigate the effects of this dual threat.

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