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Autor(en): Leinfelder, Reinhold
Seyfried, Hartmut
Titel: Sea level change : a philosophical approach
Erscheinungsdatum: 1993
Dokumentart: Zeitschriftenartikel
Erschienen in: Geologische Rundschau 82 (1993), S. 159-172
Zusammenfassung: The present Cenozoic era is an lsquoicehousersquo episode characterized by a low sea level. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the human race has been emitting greenhouse gases, increasing the global atmospheric temperature, and causing a rise in sea level. If emissions continue to increase at the present rate, average global temperatures may rise by 1.5°C by the year 2050, accompanied by a rise of about 30 cm in sea level. However, the prediction of future climatic conditions and sea level is hampered by the difficulty in modelling the interactions between the lithosphere, kryosphere, biosphere and atmosphere; in addition, the buffering capacity of our planet is still poorly understood. As scientists cannot offer unambiguous answers to simple questions, sorcerer's apprentices fill in the gaps, presenting plans to save planet without inconveniencing us. The geological record can help us to learn about the regulation mechanisms of our planet, many of which are connected with or expressed as sea level changes. Global changes in sea level are either tectono-eustatic or glacioeustatic. Plate tectonic processes strongly control sea levels and climate in the long term. There is a strong feed-back mechanism between sea level and climate; both can influence and determine each other. Although high sea levels are a powerful climatic buffer, falling sea levels accelerate climatic accentuation, the growth of the polar ice caps and will hence amplify the drop in sea level. Important sources of fossil greenhouse gases are botanic CO2 production, CO2 released by volcanic activity, and water vapour. The latter is particularly important when the surface area of the sea increases during a rise in sea level (lsquomaritime greenhouse effectrsquo). A lsquovolcanogenic greenhouse effectrsquo (release of volcanogenic CO2) is possibly not equally important, as intense volcanic activity may take place both during icehouse episodes as well as during greenhouse episodes. The hydrosphere, land vegetation and carbonate platforms are major CO2 buffers which may both take up and release CO2. CO2 can be released from the ocean due to changes in the pCO2 caused by growth of coral reefs and by uptake of CO2-rich freshwater from karst provinces. Efficient sinks of CO2 are the weathering products of silicate rocks; long-term sinks are organic deposits caused by regional anoxic events which preferrably develop during sea level rises and highstands; and coal-bearing strata. Deposition of limestone also removes CO2 from the atmospheric-hydrospheric cycle at a long term. Biotic crises are often related to either sea-level lows or sea-level highs. Long-term sea-level lows, characteristic of glacial periods, indicate cooling as major cause of extinction. During verly long-lasting greenhouse episodes the sea level is very high, climate and circulation systems are stable and biotic crises often develop as a consequence of oxygen depletion. On land, niche-splitting, complex food web structures and general overspecialization of biota will occur. Whether the crisis is caused by a single anoxic event (e.g. in the Late Devonian) or a disturbance by an asteroid impact (e.g. the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary), it will only trigger total collapse of an ecosystem if a large part of it was already in decline. The regulatory mechanisms and buffers are thermodynamically extremely efficient if they are given sufficient time in which to deploy their power. However, after major catastrophes the re-establishment of successful ecosystems will take millions of years. The present rate of sea level and associated temperature rise is much too fast to be compensated and buffered by the network of natural controls. It is likely that the transitional time towards a new steady state will be an extremely variable and chaotic episode of unpredictable duration.
Enthalten in den Sammlungen:06 Fakultät Luft- und Raumfahrttechnik und Geodäsie

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