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Article

Two Millennia of Natural and Anthropogenic Changes of the Polish Baltic Coast  

Andrzej Osadczuk, Ryszard Krzysztof Borówka, and Joanna Dudzińska-Nowak

Changes of the coast are a net result of morphodynamic processes driven by changes in external conditions. Morphodynamics can be understood as feedback between shore topography and hydrodynamics, the latter including bedload transport, which alters the morphology of the coast. The evolution of a marine coast can take various pathways depending on the time scale, shoreline length, geological setting, tectonic underpinnings, type and availability of sediments in the nearshore zone, sea level changes, intensity of waves and currents, and the influence of the adjacent land masses. A spatio-temporal approach (processes of millennial, decadal, annual, and seasonal change) is particularly important for coastal areas built of erosion-prone, poorly consolidated glacial and postglacial deposits. This is the case of the southern Baltic Sea coast where the shore has been and continues to be impacted by geological processes, climatic factors, and anthropogenic activities. The processes involved are shaped primarily by external factors such as wind–wave action, currents, storm surges, precipitation, winter ice cover, and gravitational mass movements. The shoreline response to climate change depends on both the nature of the change and the coastal zone characteristics. Long-term climate changes result in sea level changes. The sea level rise resulting from global warming enhances coastal erosion, particularly where the shore is built by poorly consolidated rocks and deposits. Coastal zones are usually very sensitive to all the external forces, therefore climate change will most likely be the strongest driver and will be the first to impinge on the coast, whereas the most distant changes in the oceans may produce effects delayed by decades or even centuries.

Article

Climate Change and Coastal Processes in the Baltic Sea  

Tarmo Soomere

Various manifestations of climate change have led to complicated patterns of reactions of the Baltic Sea shores to varying hydrodynamic drivers. The northern and western bedrock and limestone coasts of this young water body experience postglacial uplift that is faster than the global sea-level rise. These coastal segments are thus insensitive with respect to changes in hydrodynamic forcing. Sedimentary and easily erodible coasts of the westernmost, southern, and eastern shores of this water body evolve under the impact of relative sea-level rise, changing wave properties and gradual loss of sea ice in conditions of chronic deficit of fine sediment. Several classic features of coastal processes, such as the cut-and-fill cycle of beaches, are substantially modified in many coastal sections. Waves approaching the shore systematically at large angles drive massive alongshore sediment transport in many coastal segments. This transport has led to the development of large sand spits and many relict lakes separated from the sea by coastal barriers. The concept of closure depth is reinterpreted because of frequent synchronization of strong waves and elevated water levels. The gradual loss of sea ice cover endangers most seriously coastal systems around the latitudes of the Gulf of Finland (about 60°N). The combined influence of climatically controlled sea-level rise and intense wave action leads to a gradual increase in eroding sections and the acceleration of coastal retreat on the southern downlifting shores of Poland and Germany. The bidirectional wind forcing has created a delicate balance of sediment on the shores of Latvia and Lithuania. This balance is vulnerable with respect to changes in strong wind directions. The sedimentary shores of Estonia host a number of small beaches that are geometrically protected against typical strong wind directions but are sensitive with respect to storms from unusual directions. Numerical analysis of sediment transport patterns along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea has identified major changes in the wave directions in the Baltic Proper that can be attributed to manifestations of climate change.

Article

The Development of Fish Stocks and Fisheries in the Baltic Sea Since the Last Glaciation  

Henrik Svedäng

The fish fauna of the Baltic Sea reflects its 9 KY history of Arctic and temperate conditions and is a mixture of species that have invaded from the Atlantic and the continental watersheds. In spite of the challenging environmental conditions, such as low salinity in the entire Baltic Sea and varying temperature conditions, limiting the possibilities for successful reproduction, the number of species is comparably high. Except for the Baltic Ice Lake and certain stages of the cold Yoldia Sea and freshwater Ancylus Lake, the fish fauna of the Baltic Sea, as recorded by archaeological and historical notes, has to a large extent remained unchanged. Some freshwater and cold-water species such as Arctic char may have disappeared while others, such as fourhorned sculpin and eelpout, have adapted and persist as “ice age relicts.” There are few viable introductions of novel species; the round goby may be the most conspicuous invasive species. The extinction rate is still low; the loss of sturgeon and the common skate within the HELCOM (the Helsinki Commission) area is due to fishing, and, for the riverine sturgeon, due to damming. Since the formation of the Baltic Sea, fishing has played an essential role in supplying coastal settlements and their hinterlands and in trading. The archaeological and historical records have indicated fishing conducted with varying intensity using different methods. Herring fishing has been a significant economic driver from the Middle Ages onward. Recent archaeological findings indicate that organized fishing was established at the outer archipelagos along the present Swedish east coast on predominately herring and cod archipelagos for self-sufficiency shortly before or during the Viking Age, and later to engage in barter. The fact that the cod abundance has sometimes been sufficient for letting cod fishing be the most important fishery in the northern Baltic Proper alongside the fishery on herring may indicate that the eastern cod stock had relatively high productivity even when the Baltic Sea was significantly less eutrophic than it has been since the mid-20th century. This preindustrial variability in cod abundance suggests that climatic changes leading to changes in inflows of oceanic water may have affected salinity levels in the Baltic Sea. Fisheries show substantial variability, especially over the last century. Fish production may have increased due to nutrient enrichment of the Baltic Sea. Higher yields have also been obtained due to higher fishing intensity and technological changes. Fishing has, therefore, become a major driver in shaping fish stocks. The eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, leading to higher primary productivity and increasing water temperature and reductions in ice cover, may have led to changes in ecosystem structure and productivity. It should be underscored that such changes may also be amplified by the increasing fishing pressure on the cornerstone species such as herring, leading to significant disruptions in the food web.

Article

Climate Change Impacts on Cities in the Baltic Sea Region  

Sonja Deppisch

While not all projected climate change impacts are affecting especially and directly at all the cities of the Baltic Sea region (bsr), including its basin, those cities expect very different direct as well as indirect impacts of climate change. The impacts are also a matter of location, if the city with its built structures and concentration of population is located in the northern or southern part of this basin, or more inland or directly at the coast. As there are many different definitions in use trying to determine what a city is, also in the different national contexts of the bsr, here it is cities in the sense of being human-dominated densely populated areas, which are also characterized by higher concentrations of built-up areas, infrastructure, and soil-sealing as well as socioeconomic roles than rural settlements are. Those characteristics render cities also especially vulnerable to climate change impacts while there are some opportunities arising too. There are many studies on climate change impacts on the Baltic Sea itself as well as on the various ecosystems, but the studies on the observed as well as potential future impacts of climate change on cities are disperse, many are also of a national character or concentrating on a small number of cases, leaving some cities not well studied at all. This renders an all-encompassing picture on the cities within the bsr difficult and even more complicated as every city provides a mix of built-up and open structures, of socioeconomic structure and role in a region, nation-state, or even on an international level, and further characteristics. Their urban development is dependent on manifold various interdependencies as well as climatic and nonclimatic drivers, such as, to name just a few diverse examples, urban to international governance processes, or topography and location, or also different socioeconomic vulnerabilities within the Baltic Sea basin. Accordingly every urban society and structure provides specific exposure, vulnerabilities, and adaptive capacity. Generally, the cities of the bsr have to deal with the impacts of temperature rise, natural hazards, and extreme events, and, depending on location and topography, with sea-level rise. With reference to temperature rise and the increase of heat waves, it is important to consider that cities of a certain size within the Baltic Sea basin contribute to their own urban climatic conditions and provide already urban heat islands. Also, urban planning and building facilitated by local political decisions contribute to the extent of urban floods as well as their damage, as these are regulating, for example, the sealing of soils or new built-up areas in flood-prone zones.

Article

History and Future of Snow and Sea Ice in the Baltic Sea  

Matti Leppäranta

The physics of the ice season in the Baltic Sea is presented for its research history and present state of understanding. Knowledge has been accumulated since the 1800s, first in connection of operational ice charting; deeper physics came into the picture in the 1960s along with sea ice structure and pressure ridges. Then the drift of ice and ice forecasting formed the leading line for 20 years, and over to the present century, ice climate modeling and satellite remote sensing have been the primary research topics. The physics of the Baltic Sea ice season is quite well understood, and toward future ice conditions realistic scenarios can be constructed from hypothetical regional climate scenarios. The key factor in climate scenarios is the air temperature in the Baltic Sea region. The local freezing and breakup dates show sensitivity of 5–8 days’ change to climate warming by 1 °C, while this sensitivity of sea ice thickness is 5–10 cm. However, sea ice thickness and breakup date show sensitivity also to snow accumulation: More snow gives later breakup, but the thickness of ice may decrease due to better insulation or increase due to more snow-ice. The annual probability of freezing decreases with climate warming, and the sensitivity of maximum annual ice extent is 35,000–40,000 km2 (8.3%–9.5% of the Baltic Sea area) for 1 °C climate warming. Due to the large sensitivity to air temperature, the severity of the Baltic Sea ice season is closely related to the North Atlantic Oscillation.

Article

History of the Hydrometeorological Service of Belarus  

Irina Danilovich, Raisa Auchynikava, and Victoria Slonosky

The first weather observations within the modern territory of Belarus go back to ancient times and are found as mentions of weather conditions in chronicles. Hydrometeorology in those times was not a defined science but connected to the everyday needs of people in different regions. In the period from 1000 to 1800, there were first efforts to document outstanding weather conditions and phenomena. They are stored in chronicles, books, and reports. The first instrumental observations started in the early 1800s. They have varying observing practices and periods of observations. The hydrometeorological network saw the active expansion of observations in the following century, but the network was destroyed at the beginning of the civil war (1917–1922). Five years later, hydrometeorological activity resumed, and the foundation of meteorological services of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was initiated. The next years saw a complicated Belarusian hydrometeorological service formation and reorganization. The meteorological bureau was formed in 1924, and this year is considered the official date of the Hydrometeorological Service of Belarus foundation, despite multiple changes in title and functions during its course. During the Great Patriotic War (1941–1945) people’s courage and efforts were directed to saving the existing network of hydrometeorological observations and providing weather services for military purposes. The postwar period was characterized by the implementation of new methods of weather forecasting and new forms of hydrometeorological information. Later decades were marked by the invention and implementation of new observational equipment. The Hydrometeorological Service of Belarus in this period was a testing ground within the Soviet Union for the development of meteorological tools and devices. The current Hydrometeorological Service of Belarus is described as an efficient, modern-equipped, and constantly developing weather service.

Article

Geological, Paleoclimatological, and Archaeological History of the Baltic Sea Region Since the Last Glaciation  

Jan Harff, Hauke Jöns, and Alar Rosentau

The correlation of climate variability; the change environment, in particular the change of coastlines; and the development of human societies during the last millennia can be studied exemplarily in the Baltic area. The retreat of the Scandinavian ice-sheet vertical crustal movement (glacio-isostatic adjustment), together with climatically controlled sea-level rise and a continuously warming atmosphere, determine a dramatic competition between different forcings of the environment that advancing humans are occupying step by step after the glaciation. These spatially and temporally changing life conditions require a stepwise adjustment of survival strategies. Changes in the natural environment can be reconstructed from sedimentary, biological proxy data and archaeological information. According to these reconstructions, the main shift in the Baltic area’s environment happened about 8,500 years before present (BP) when the Baltic Sea became permanently connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Danish straits and the Sound, and changed the environment from lacustrine to brackish-marine conditions. Human reaction to environmental changes in prehistoric times is mainly reconstructed from remains of ancient settlements—onshore in the uplifting North and underwater in the South dominated by sea-level rise. According to the available data, the human response to environmental change was mainly passive before the successful establishment of agriculture. But it became increasingly active after people settled down and the socioeconomic system changed from hunter-gatherer to farming communities. This change, mainly triggered by the climatic change from the Holocene cool phase to the warming period, is clearly visible in Baltic basin sediment cores as a regime shift 6,000 years (BP). But the archaeological findings prove that the relatively abrupt environmental shift is reflected in the socioeconomic system by a period of transition when hunter-gatherer and farming societies lived in parallel for several centuries. After the Holocene warming, the permanent regression in the Northern Baltic Sea and the transgression in the South did affect the socioeconomic response of the Baltic coastal societies, who migrated downslope at the regressive coast and upslope at the transgressive coast. The following cooling phases, in particular the Late Antique Little Ice Age (LALIA) and the Little Ice Age (LIA), are directly connected with migration and severe changes of the socioeconomic system. After millennia of passive reaction to climate and environmental changes, the Industrial Revolution finally enabled humans to influence and protect actively the environment, and in particular the Baltic Sea shore, by coastal constructions. On the other hand, this ability also affected climate and environment negatively because of the disturbance of the natural balance between climate, geosystem, and ecosystem.

Article

Regional Climate Modeling for the Baltic Sea Region  

Erik Kjellström and Ole Bøssing Christensen

Regional climate models (RCMs) are commonly used to provide detailed regional to local information for climate change assessments, impact studies, and work on climate change adaptation. The Baltic Sea region is well suited for RCM evaluation due to its complexity and good availability of observations. Evaluation of RCM performance over the Baltic Sea region suggests that: • Given appropriate boundary conditions, RCMs can reproduce many aspects of the climate in the Baltic Sea region. • High resolution improves the ability of RCMs to simulate significant processes in a realistic way. • When forced by global climate models (GCMs) with errors in their representation of the large-scale atmospheric circulation and/or sea surface conditions, performance of RCMs deteriorates. • Compared to GCMs, RCMs can add value on the regional scale, related to both the atmosphere and other parts of the climate system, such as the Baltic Sea, if appropriate coupled regional model systems are used. Future directions for regional climate modeling in the Baltic Sea region would involve testing and applying even more high-resolution, convection permitting, models to generally better represent climate features like heavy precipitation extremes. Also, phenomena more specific to the Baltic Sea region are expected to benefit from higher resolution (these include, for example, convective snowbands over the sea in winter). Continued work on better describing the fully coupled regional climate system involving the atmosphere and its interaction with the sea surface and land areas is also foreseen as beneficial. In this respect, atmospheric aerosols are important components that deserve more attention.

Article

Projected Oceanographical Changes in the Baltic Sea until 2100  

H.E. Markus Meier and Sofia Saraiva

In this article, the concepts and background of regional climate modeling of the future Baltic Sea are summarized and state-of-the-art projections, climate change impact studies, and challenges are discussed. The focus is on projected oceanographic changes in future climate. However, as these changes may have a significant impact on biogeochemical cycling, nutrient load scenario simulations in future climates are briefly discussed as well. The Baltic Sea is special compared to other coastal seas as it is a tideless, semi-enclosed sea with large freshwater and nutrient supply from a partly heavily populated catchment area and a long response time of about 30 years, and as it is, in the early 21st century, warming faster than any other coastal sea in the world. Hence, policymakers request the development of nutrient load abatement strategies in future climate. For this purpose, large ensembles of coupled climate–environmental scenario simulations based upon high-resolution circulation models were developed to estimate changes in water temperature, salinity, sea-ice cover, sea level, oxygen, nutrient, and phytoplankton concentrations, and water transparency, together with uncertainty ranges. Uncertainties in scenario simulations of the Baltic Sea are considerable. Sources of uncertainties are global and regional climate model biases, natural variability, and unknown greenhouse gas emission and nutrient load scenarios. Unknown early 21st-century and future bioavailable nutrient loads from land and atmosphere and the experimental setup of the dynamical downscaling technique are perhaps the largest sources of uncertainties for marine biogeochemistry projections. The high uncertainties might potentially be reducible through investments in new multi-model ensemble simulations that are built on better experimental setups, improved models, and more plausible nutrient loads. The development of community models for the Baltic Sea region with improved performance and common coordinated experiments of scenario simulations is recommended.

Article

Effects of Climate Change and Fisheries on the Marine Ecosystem of the Baltic Sea  

Christian Möllmann

Climate change and fisheries have significantly changed the Baltic Sea ecosystem, with the demise of Eastern Baltic cod (Gadus morhua callarias) being the signature development. Cod in the Central Baltic Sea collapsed in the late 1980s as a result of low reproductive success and overfishing. Low recruitment and hence small year-classes were not able to compensate for fishing pressures far above sustainable levels. Recruitment failure can be mainly related to the absence of North Sea water inflows to the Central Baltic deep basins. These major Baltic inflows (MBIs) occurred regularly until the 1980s, when their frequency decreased to a decadal pattern, a development attributed to changes in atmospheric circulation patterns. MBIs are needed for ventilation of otherwise stagnating Baltic deep waters, and their absence caused reduced oxygen and salinity levels in cod-spawning habitats, limiting egg and larval survival. Climate change, on the other hand, has promoted a warmer environment richer in zooplanktonic food for larval Baltic sprat (Sprattus sprattus). Resulting large year-classes and low predation by the collapsed cod stock caused an outburst of the sprat stock that cascaded down to the zoo- and phytoplankton trophic levels. Furthermore, a large sprat population controlled cod recruitment and hence hindered a recovery of the stock by predation on cod eggs, limiting cod larval food supply. The change in ecosystem structure and function caused by the collapse of the cod stock was a major part and driver of an ecosystem regime shift in the Central Baltic Sea during the period 1988 to 1993. This reorganization of ecosystem structure involved all trophic levels from piscivorous and planktivorous fish to zoo- and phytoplankton. The observed large-scale ecosystem changes displayed the characteristics of a discontinuous regime shift, initiated by climate-induced changes in the abiotic environment and stabilized by feedback loops in the food web. Discontinuous changes such as regime shifts are characteristically difficult to reverse, and the Baltic ecosystem recently rather shows signs of increasing ecological novelty for which the failed recovery of the cod stock despite a reduction in fishing pressure is a clear symptom. Unusually widespread deficient oxygen conditions in major cod-spawning areas have altered the overall productivity of the population by negatively affecting growth and recruitment. Eutrophication as a consequence of intensive agriculture is the main driver for anoxia in the Baltic Sea amplified by the effects on continuing climate change and stabilized by self-enforcing feedbacks. Developing ecological novelty in the Baltic Sea hence requires true cross-sectoral ecosystem-based management approaches that truly integrate eutrophication combatment, species conservation, and living resources management.