IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) studies the impact of extreme changes in the sea during XXI century on the coast of Bilbao

IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) studies the impact of extreme changes in the sea during XXI century on the coast of BilbaoScientific research conducted by researchers at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB) and the AZTi-Tecnalia Technology Center has explored the impact of extreme floods resulting from the combination of tidal fluctuations and changes in sea levels and storm surges during the XXI century at the Biscay coast. The study evaluates the impact of sea level changes in different global change scenarios for the XXI century at Bilbao.«We have chosen this geographic area because we have high-accuracy topographic data that allow us to determine reliably flood levels and typologies of the affected areas (urban, residential, natural, etc.)», explains Dr. Marta Marcos, researcher at the IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB), joint research center between the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB), and the main author of the study.In order to develop the prediction model, the authors have considered two possible climate scenarios defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): the first one with moderate changes and a second one, more negative. For each one, the study takes into account the effects of the gradual rise of sea level due to heating and ice melting, as well as changes in storms and their impact on extreme sea levels (impact of atmospheric pressure and wind). Both contributions are derived from numerical model simulations.

This methodology allows the authors to establish the expected maximum levels  over the century, under the considered scenarios , and in comparison with the current situation. The study, published in the journal Climate Research, estimated that the flooded areas on the coast of Biscay at the end of the century can triple the current values. From these area, 50 percent are urban, residential and industrial lands.

«The study gives us an indication of the regional sea level variability and local flood risk, so as to provide necessary information to formulate effective measures for medium-term adaptation to extreme changes in sea level», concludes Dr. Marta Marcos.


MARCOS, M., CHUST, G., JORDÀ, G., CABALLERO, A. «Effect of sea level extremas on the western Basque coast during the 21st century». Climate Research, Vol. 51:237-248, 2012. DOI: 10.3354/cr01069.

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