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Recent Sea Level and Sea Surface Temperature Changes Along the Maldives Coast

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Maldives, a South Asian small island nation in the northern part of the Indian Ocean is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of Sea Level Rise (SLR) due to its low altitude from the mean sea level. This artricle attempts to estimate the recent rates of SLR in Maldives during different seasons of the year with the help of existing tidal data recorded in the Maldives coast. Corresponding Sea Surface Temperature (SST) trends, utilizing reliable satellite climatology, have also been obtained. The relationships between the SST and mean sea level have been comprehensively investigated.

Results show that recent sea level trends in the Maldives coast are very high. At Male, the capital of the Republic of Maldives, the rising rates of Mean Tidal Level (MTL) are: 8.5, 7.6, and 5.8 mm/year during the postmonsoon (October-December), Premonsoon (March-May) and southwest monsoon (June-September) seasons respectively. At Gan, a station very close to the equator, the increasing rate of MTL is maximum during the period from June to September (which is 6.2 mm/year). These rising trends in MTL along the Maldives coast are certainly alarming for this small developing island nation, which is hardly one meter above the mean sea level. Thus there is a need for careful monitoring of future sea level changes in the Maldives coast. The trends presented are based on the available time-series of MTL for the Maldives coast, which are rather short. These trends need not necessarily reflect the long-term scenario.

SST in the Maldives coast has also registered significant increasing trend during the period from June to September. There are large seasonal variations in the SST trends at Gan but SST and MTL trends at Male are consistently increasing during all the seasons and the rising rates are very high. The interannual mode of variation is prominent both in SST as well as MTL. Annual profile of MTL along the Maldives coast is bimodal, having two maxima during April and July. The April Mode is by far the dominant one.

The SST appears to be the main factor governing the sea level variations along the Maldives coast. The influence of SST and sea level is more near the equatorial region (i.e., at Gan). There is lag of about two months for the maximum influence of SST on the sea level. The correlation coefficient between the smoothed SST and mean tidal level at Gan with lag of two months is as high as ~ +0.8, which is highly significant. The corresponding correlation coefficients at Male with the lags of one and two months are +0.5 and +0.3, respectively. Thus, the important finding of the present work for the Maldives coast is the dominance of SST factor in sea level variation, especially near the region close to the equator.
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Keywords: ANNUAL VARIATION; INTERANNUAL MODE; LAG CORRELATION; MEAN TIDAL LEVEL (MTL); SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURE; SOUTHWEST MONSOON; TREND

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2001

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