An Anomalous Recent Acceleration of Global Sea Level Rise

Edited: 2011-03-28
TitleAn Anomalous Recent Acceleration of Global Sea Level Rise
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsMerrifield, M. A., S. T. Merrifield, and G. T. Mitchum
JournalJournal of Climate
Date Published06/2009
Keywordssea_level, tide_gauge

Tide gauge data are used to estimate trends in global sea level for the period from 1955 to 2007. Linear trends over 15-yr segments are computed for each tide gauge record, averaged over latitude bands, and combined to form an area-weighted global mean trend. The uncertainty of the global trend is specified as a sampling error plus a random vertical land motion component, but land motion corrections do not change the results. The average global sea level trend for the time segments centered on 1962–90 is 1.5 ± 0.5 mm yr−1 (standard error), in agreement with previous estimates of late twentieth-century sea level rise. After 1990, the global trend increases to the most recent rate of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm yr−1, matching estimates obtained from satellite altimetry. The acceleration is distinct from decadal variations in global sea level that have been reported in previous studies. Increased rates in the tropical and southern oceans primarily account for the acceleration. The timing of the global acceleration corresponds to similar sea level trend changes associated with upper ocean heat content and ice melt.