Sweden: The land of the rising coastline

The climate change threat to low-lying islands and cities is well known, but Scandinavia faces the opposite problem

A A A

A Stone Age camp that used to be by the shore is now 125 miles from the Baltic Sea. Sheep graze on what was the seabed in the 15th century. And Sweden's port of Lulea risks getting too shallow for ships. In contrast to worries from the Maldives to Manhattan of storm surges and higher ocean levels caused by climate change, the entire northern part of the Nordic region is rising and, as a result, the Baltic Sea is receding.

The uplift of almost a centimetre a year, one of the highest rates in the world, is part of a geological rebound that has been taking place since the end of the Ice Age removed a vast ice sheet from regions around the Arctic Circle. "It's a bit like a foam rubber mattress. It takes a while to return to normal after you get up," said Martin Vermeer, a professor of geodesy at Aalto University in Finland. Finland gains 2.7 square miles a year as the land rises.

In the Lulea region, just south of the Arctic Circle, mostly flat with pine forests and where the sea freezes in winter, tracts of land have emerged, leaving some Stone Age, Viking and medieval sites inland. That puts human settlements gradually out of harm's way from sea flooding, unlike low-lying islands such as Tuvalu or Kiribati or cities from New York to Shanghai. Facebook is investing in a new data centre in Lulea on land that was once on the sea floor.

But rising land also has a cost. Lulea is planning to deepen its port by 2020 to let in bigger ships and offset land rise; the price tag will be SEK1.6bn (£150m). Just to continue to accommodate existing ships, dredging the port would cost a quarter of that amount.

Lulea's old town, with a 15th-century church and bright red-painted wooden houses, built as an outpost of the then Swedish-Finnish kingdom to counter Russian influence near the Arctic Circle, was originally constructed on an island for safety. Now a village, it has been left high and dry, out of sight of the sea.

In one spot, Sweden's coastline has risen 300 metres since the Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, many nations are worried by the costs should sea levels rise in line with scenarios modelled by UN climate-change scientists – in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted increases of between 18cm and 59cm during this century, after 17cm in the last one. As a result, representatives of almost 200 governments are currently meeting in Doha, Qatar, to try to revive a UN-led effort to slow climate change, which is also projected to cause more floods, droughts, heatwaves and powerful storms.

Professor David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey, said sea levels will change at widely differing rates due to land uplift or subsidence, shifts in gravity and variations in ocean currents and winds. Sea levels near Greenland, for instance, could fall because its ice sheet has a strong gravitational pull that currently raises the local sea level. But if temperatures rise and the ice thaws, the water level will sink.

"The sea level around Antarctica and Greenland will be going down; Scandinavia will be emerging. Almost every projection I have seen shows the highest rates of rise will be in the equatorial Pacific," he said.

Suggested Topics
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower