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Relative Sea Level Changes in Maldives and Vulnerability of Land Due to Abnormal Coastal Inundation

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Oceanic Islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans have extremely small land areas, usually less than 500 km2, with maximum height about 4 m above sea level. The Republic of Maldives is an independent island nation in the Indian Ocean south of Sri Lanka which stretches vertically in the Indian Ocean from 07° 06′N – 0° 42′S. The land area of this island country is about 300 km2, and none of Maldives' 1190 islands has an elevation more than 3 m above sea level. In fact the Maldives has the distinction of being the flattest country on earth, making it extremely vulnerable to the effects of global warming. Of the south Asian countries, the Maldives is the most vulnerable nation, facing severe consequences as a result of global warming and sea level rise (SLR). Because of their obvious vulnerability to SLR, the Government of Maldives is very much concerned about climate change. As global warming and the related SLR is an important integrated environmental issue, the need of the hour is to monitor and assess these changes. The present article deals mainly with the analysis of the tidal and Sea Surface Temperature (SST) data observed at Male and Gan stations along the Maldives coast in the northern and southern hemispheres, respectively. The objective of the analysis is to study the trends of these parameters. Trend analysis is also performed on the corresponding air temperature data of both stations. The results show that Maldives coastal sea level is rising in the same way (rising trend) as the global sea level. The mean tidal level at Male has shown an increasing trend of about 4.1 mm/year.Similarly at Gan, near the equator,it has registered a positive trend of about 3.9 mm/year.Sea level variations are the manifestations of various changes that are taking place in the Ocean–Atmosphere system. Therefore, the variations in SST and air temperature are intimately linked to sea level rise. It is found that SST and air temperature have also registered an increasing trend at both stations. The evidence of rising trends suggest that careful future monitoring of these parameters is very much required. Tropical cyclones normally do not affect the Maldives coast. However, due to its isolated location, the long fetches in association with swells generated by storms, that originated in the far south have resulted in flooding. Thus the rising rate of sea level with high waves and flat topography have increased the risk of flooding and increased the rate of erosion and alteration of beaches.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2002

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