UNESCO´s International project „Sea level change from minutes to millennia “ – conference held at GUtech

Forty-eight experts in the field of coastal geology and sea-level change from 15 countries gathered last week at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) for an International Conference entitled IGCP project 639 „Sea level change from minutes to millennia“.

Prof. Dr. Gösta Hoffmann of GUtech and Bonn University (Germany) who was one of the main organizers of the meeting has been conducting research on the coastal development in Oman in the past years. “We are running research projects funded by The Research Council Oman (TRC). So far, we were able to communicate our results by scientific publications. Now the time is ripe to gather all international experts on tsunami, storm and earthquake impacts here in Oman and present the evidence directly here in the field,” said Prof. Gösta Hoffmann. The Conference at GUtech was sponsored by UNESCO, GUtech and the Association of Geoscientists Aachen, Bonn, Cologne, Jülich. UNESCO is the only United Nations Organisation with a mandate to support research and capacity in geology and geophysics.

The field-meeting during the six day conference turned out as a great success as the international scientists agreed that the coastal zone is of outmost importance to the Sultanate. Here most of the population is concentrated, especially in the Al Batinah coastal zone. Furthermore, critical infrastructure such as desalination plants and refineries are on the coast as they depend on these locations. “Sea-level changes over timescales from minutes to millennia are of great concern to coastal communities. Long-term changes in sea level due to the solid earths response to glaciation and tectonics are the background rate upon which the hazard from anthropogenic sea-level change and extreme inundation from tsunamis and storms must be superimposed,” said one of the principal investigators Prof. Dr. Simon Engelhardt (University of Rhode Island, USA). For this reason, the meeting had three different parts: “On the first day we presented our research methods in a hands-on training day. All GUtech students were invited to work with the state-of-the-art instrumentation that GUtech provides. The next two days saw world-class presentations of the leading experts in the field of coastal processes. Furthermore, we organised a three-day expedition for the delegates to see the scientific evidence and to discuss the relevant issues directly in the field. This was both a challenging as well as rewarding effort, given the international composition of the group, including the various cultural as well as educational backgrounds,” explained Prof Gösta Hoffmann.

Prof. Dr Alar Rosentau of Tartu University (Estonia) a co-principal investigator of the research project lined out: “Short-term measurements from instrumental and historical records provide short glimpses at the hazards posed by sea-level change over varying temporal scales but must be placed within the long-term context that only geological and archaeological records provide.”

UNESCO´s International IGCP project 639 „Sea level change from minutes to millennia“ is scheduled between 2016 and 2021. The conferences will provide a platform for the development of integrated records of sea-level change and coastal hazards obtained from instrumental, historical, archaeological and geological records. According to Prof. Gösta Hoffmann this project will place a particular focus on integrating disparate records in growth regions for science namely in Africa, South America, and in the Middle East. It will also expand upon previous coastal projects that focussed on Europe and Asia. The next meetings are scheduled for 2017 in South Africa, 2018 in Italy, 2019 in China and 2020 in Chile.


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