Using corals to gauge Singapore’s sea-level history

Microatolls on the shore

Corals
can provide a good gauge of Singapore’s sea-level history over the past
century, with the rising levels recorded over the 20th and 21st
century very likely a result of climate change.

While
this can be attributed to multiple factors such as sinking land, findings from
a NTU Singapore study show that climate change contributed to rising sea
levels in the country, which had gone up by 14cm since pre-1970 levels.

Led
by Dr Jedrzej Majewski and Assistant Professor Aron Meltzner, both from the
Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), they said that as the rate of sea-level
rise over the last 100 years was lower compared with the global average,
taking away anthropogenic factors would mean that sea level in the country
could have been stable, or even “slightly falling”, likely due to
Singapore’s geological history.

Anthropogenic
factors refer to human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels and
cutting down of forests.

In
addition, considering the recent report by the United Nations’
Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), some 70 per cent of the
combined change in glaciers, ice sheet surface mass balance and thermal
expansion since 1970 can be attributed to human activity – with this percentage
increasing over the course of the 20th and 21st century, he noted.

The
latest report from IPCC has found that Singapore will face a sea-level rise of
about 0.2m by 2050, and 1m by 2100, relative to a baseline from the period of
1995 to 2014.

This
discovery was made possible only through the use of coral microatolls –
circular colonies of coral which usually grow sideways – from Mapur, an
Indonesian island about 100km south-east of Singapore.

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