Contemporary Sea Level Rise

Edited: 2011-02-21
TitleContemporary Sea Level Rise
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsCazenave, A., and W. Llovel
JournalAnnual Review of Marine Science
Date Published01/2010
Keywordsclimate, ice, sea_level, tide_gauge
AbstractMeasuring sea level change and understanding its causes has considerably improved in the recent years, essentially because new in situ and remote sensing observations have become available. Here we report on most recent results on contemporary sea level rise. We first present sea level observations from tide gauges over the twentieth century and from satellite altimetry since the early 1990s. We next discuss the most recent progress made in quantifying the processes causing sea level change on timescales ranging from years to decades, i.e., thermal expansion of the oceans, land ice mass loss, and land water-storage change. We show that for the 1993-2007 time span, the sum of climate-related contributions (2.85 ± 0.35 mm year‑1) is only slightly less than altimetry-based sea level rise (3.3 ± 0.4 mm year‑1): ˜30% of the observed rate of rise is due to ocean thermal expansion and ˜55% results from land ice melt. Recent acceleration in glacier melting and ice mass loss from the ice sheets increases the latter contribution up to 80% for the past five years. We also review the main causes of regional variability in sea level trends: The dominant contribution results from nonuniform changes in ocean thermal expansion.