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Mediterranean ups and downs

Findings from researches at a Templar palace ruins in Akko (Acre) and other geo-archaeological sites reveal that short-term rising and falling of sea levels may not say much about global warming patterns.

Rising sea level, one of many climate change-related phenomena expected to occur in the coming years, is a major environmental concern for many Middle Eastern countries where coastlines are long and water resources are scarce.

A recent research – headed by Dr Dorit Sivan, Head of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa – , shows sea level along the israeli coastline has been rising and falling steadily over the past 2,500 years, with a one-meter difference between the highest and lowest levels, most of the time below the present-day level.

Dr. Sivan and research assistant Ayelet Toker examined Crusader-era excavations from the Antiquities Authority in Acre, which revealed that the sea level during the Crusader period – just 800 years ago – was some 50-90 centimeters lower than the present sea level. An analysis of other archaeological findings from the same period at Caesarea and Atlit reinforced this conclusion.

Further findings at additional sites, from periods before and after the Crusaders, show there have been significant fluctuations in sea level: During the Hellenistic period, the sea level was about 1.6 meters lower than its present level; during the Roman era the level was almost similar to today’s; the level began to drop again during the ancient Muslim period, and continued dropping to reach the same level as it was during the Crusader period, but within about 500 years it rose again, and reached some 25 centimeters lower than today’s level at the beginning of the 18th century.

Although rising sea level may not be new, it may still be incredibly destructive. Impacts like flooding, underground water salinization, flooded effluents, and acceleratead coastal damage are all associated with sea level rise. Israel and other nearby Mediterranean countries should therefore make every effort to prepare for and adapt to possible damage in the coming years.

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