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Durham University

Sea Level Research Unit (SLRU)

Policy-relevant sea-level research and outreach

This has always been an area of our research, with early projects, in the 1980s, providing quantitative estimates of current land uplift and subsidence in mainland Great Britain supported by both geological and oceanographic data. Around the same time, we developed Geographical Information Systems for case studies to assess hazard vulnerability from sea-level rise, including statistical analyses to predict potential impacts of future sea-level rise on coastal lowlands, lives and properties.

Our current research contributes to policy issues and stakeholder interest in a number of ways. Integration of our geological and modeling methods led to series of enhancements to knowledge of land uplift and subsidence in the UK and Ireland, the latest providing a modification to the rates used for assessing impacts of future sea-level change around the coast.

The December 26 2004 plate-boundary earthquake off Indonesia, causing the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean, was of similar magnitude to the 1964 great earthquake in Alaska. To help minimise loss from such catastrophes it is important to understand the mechanism and processes of great sub-marine earthquakes (magnitude ≥8.0) and associated tsunami. Future earthquake forecasting and reduction of loss require knowing the history of great earthquakes. Key parameters addressed by our research include their frequency and how patterns of land movement vary during different earthquakes.

Some results of our projects appear in academic journals while others directly inputs for policy makers such as the Environment Agency (UK), the US Geological Survey and the Bureau for Land Management, Alaska. Some projects are specifically designed to inform industries and non-governmental organisations, e.g.

Shennan, I., Milne, G. & Bradley, S.L., 2009.  Late Holocene relative land - and sea-level changes: providing information for stakeholders. GSA Today, 19, 9, 52-53.

We also aim to take a leading role in promoting sea-level research through a wide range of activities: undergraduate and post-graduate education based on the most research; organisation of technical sessions at international conferences and the hosting of conferences; regular contacts with the media.