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Venice not in major peril after all - new research

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New research led by an Australian government boffin says that Venice is not, in fact, set to disappear underwater in the near future as a result of global warming.

"The survival of Venice and its lagoon is seriously questioned under the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) global sea level rise scenarios," says Dr Alberto Troccoli of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). However, according to new work by Troccoli and colleagues in Italy and the UK, things are actually set to improve for the much-beloved city of canals.

The regular floods which beset Venice today - aka "Acqua Alta", high water events, not something that residents of the tideless Mediterranean generally expect - are caused by storm surges.

"Possible future changes in storm surge occurrences critical to flooding events remain largely unexplored," explains Troccoli. "It is important to understand how these events will evolve since a moderate to strong storm surge event is required to cause serious flooding."

According to the doc and his colleagues' analysis, the Acqua Alta is actually set to become a less frequent visitor to Venice as the Earth's climate evolves through the 21st century. The famous piazza of St Mark's will no longer be so regularly inundated.

"We found that the frequency of extreme storm surge events affecting Venice is projected to decrease by about 30 per cent by the end of the 21st century which would leave the pattern of flooding largely unaltered under 21st Century climate simulations," says Troccoli.

As the doc says, this clashes sharply with the official UN position. Just a few years ago, Italian wire service ANSA reported that Osvaldo Canziani, the then deputy head of the IPCC, had warned that "Venice is destined to disappear" within decades.

Troccoli and his colleagues' results assume that the UN global projections of sea level rise are correct, but their findings appear to show that the consequences to be expected in any given location may be very different from that one might expect.

The doc says that his research "emphasises the need for location-by-location studies to determine coastal flooding impacts". The paper Storm surge frequency reduction in Venice under climate change is published here by the journal Climatic Change. ®

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