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Waters Rising

Professor Mark Meier of the University of Colorado says scientists have seriously underestimated the rise in sea levels that will occur this century. His team came to this conclusion by examining the rate at which glaciers and ice caps are melting because of rising temperatures on Earth.

They say these areas to be retreating far faster than previously thought, and the run-off waters will lift the height of the oceans well above that recently predicted by the UN?s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. ?The glacier wastage at the moment is unprecedented,? Meier says. ?In some glaciers, like the South Cascade Glacier in Washington that I have studied for years, we know that the present rate of melting is greater than it ever has been for the last 5,000 years.?

Meier and his colleague Mark Dyurgerov analyzed information about glacier volumes from several thousand years ago to the present, and studied the last 40 years in more detail. Meier says, ?The IPCC thinks there will be an increase in sea levels by 2100 of [2 to 4 inches] due to glacier melt alone. We think it will be nearer [7 to 10 inches] and that?s a conservative estimate.

?These estimates in sea-level rise may seem small, but a [12 inch] rise in sea level will typically cause a retreat of shoreline of [100 feet.] This would have substantial social and economic impacts.?

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A team of scientists from Scotland is trying to stop the Italian city of Venice from sinking into the sea. Venice is threatened by rising sea levels, which cause increased flooding.

The team will research how tidal systems in lagoons and estuaries change over time, with the aim of finding a way to preserve Venice for centuries to come. Nine different European institutions will collaborate on the project.

In Venice, water slowly seeps out from under the stones in St Mark?s Square, the huge tourist attraction that is the lowest point in Venice. In 1966, the city was hit by the most serious floods in its history. In 1997 the center of the city was flooded 80 times. According to experts, in 50 years time there could be flooding every day.

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