In the past week I got the opportunity to take part in a summer school on sea level in the dutch city Delft. The school took place in the TU Delft and covered a wide range of different topics on sea level, its observations and the consequences of its changes. Many renowned scientists presented in their lectures the challenges and opportunities of this field and triggered many interesting discussions among the participating students.
The summer school started with an overview over the geological record and the paleoclimatic indicators for sea level. This was followed by a lecture on Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA), the reaction of the earth on changing ice sheets and other deforming effects. Both lectures are directly linked to my current work and helped me to connect missing links, which have emerged in the past year.
The second day was focused on beach erosion and the dutch reaction to it. A current experiment, the Zandmotor, was the focus of the lectures and in the afternoon the side at the dutch coast was visited by the group. The idea that nature should help to build the right coastal defense is very attractive and the amount of sand, which was redistributed by the coastal waves and currents was really impressive.
The Wednesday was about with the current observations on coastal sea level. In the morning the tide gauges were the focus of the presentation. This record is due to its availability of long time series still the main source of information to handle the understanding of sea level development. The second part focused on the GPS and its corrections and problems. Together, both lectures gave a great overview on the current observational system of relative sea level.
The next day gave an insight into satellite altimetry, which helps to fill the gaps between the coastal bound tide gauges. Followed was this by an overview of the measurement and physical process of thermal expansion. Both lectures showed the current science and its implication to the uncertainties on the future sea level change.
Friday was dominated by the gravitational measurements, especially by GRACE. This second form of view from the space brings additional value in the analysis of current sea level and its sources. A main source is of cause the melt and generation of ice sheets, which was the topic of the afternoon session. This part of the sea level universe is the one with the largest uncertainties and possible implications for sea level change in the future and are therefore also a focus of my current research.
The last day was then concentrating on the future developments. Especially a lecture on geoengineering was in parts new for me, since it is a topic, which has for many scientists no top priority. The chances and especially the risks are an interesting research field, which might stand at one point in the centre of discussions, when humanity might want to influence the future development of the global earth system.
All in all the course showed that sea level science is a heavily interdisciplinary research area, which still offers many opportunities for further developments. For me the course was very interesting and allowed me to make many connections of the different parts of the whole picture. As allways for such occasions, the meeting of people was an integreal part of the event and the work with many different students and yound scientist from different nations and fields made this school to a great experience.