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Life at the Edge: Sinking Deltas

Despite occupying just 1% of the Earth’s land area, deltas are home to more than 500 million people, all living within 5 metres of sea level. These economic and environmental hotspots are some of the world’s most delicate and vulnerable natural systems, facing challenges from resource exploration and climate change.

According to a recent study, many deltas are sinking at rates four times higher than average sea level rise. With this comes coastal flooding, loss of wetlands and infrastructure, and risk to human life, alongside the natural perils that face these areas – storm surges, hurricanes and flooding.

Although we know the rates at which deltas are sinking, the causes are still not fully understood. The development of high resolution surface elevation models will hopefully bring new approaches and tools to future study of deltas, helping to protect these vulnerable areas and the people who live in them.


James Syvitski


Professor James P.M. Syvitski received a Ph.D. in both oceanography and geological sciences (1978) at the University of British Columbia, where he developed a quantitative understanding of particle dynamics across the land-sea boundary. He has had a variety of appointments within Canadian universities (1978-1995: U. Calgary, Dalhousie U., U. Laval, Memorial U., and INRS-oceanologie) and was employed as a Senior Research Scientist within the Geological Survey of Canada at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (1981-1995). James served as Director of INSTAAR – a CU Earth and Environmental Systems Institute from 1995-2007, and presently holds faculty appointments in in Geological Sciences, Applied Mathematics, Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences, Hydrological Sciences, and Geophysics. James has over 500 publications, including authorship or co-authorship of 65 peer-reviewed books, and has served in various editorial positions for many international journals.

Professor Syvitski has taken leadership roles in large International Projects (e.g. SAFE, ADFEX, SEDFLUX, COLDSEIS, STRATAFORM, EuroSTRATAFORM, CSDMS), and served as an advisor for NSF, ONR, ARCUS, LOICZ, IGBP, IUGS, INQUA, SCOR, GWSP, and various energy, mining, and environmental companies. Prof. Syvitski works in the forefront of Computational Geosciences: sediment transport, land-ocean interactions and Earth-surface dynamics, and has won numerous awards for his efforts. In 2007 James became the Executive Director of CSDMS. James is also the Chair of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, the ICSU Global Change program involving more than 20,000 international scientists.



Event Details

Date: 28 March 2012
Venue: The Geological Society, London
Speaker: James Syvitski



Naomi Newbold
Tel: 020 7432 0981