Present-Day Sea Level Change: Observations and Causes

Edited: 2011-02-21
TitlePresent-Day Sea Level Change: Observations and Causes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsCazenave, A., C. Cabanes, K. Dominh, M. Gennero, and C. Le Provost
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Date Published07/2003
Keywordsclimate, sea_level, steric, tide_gauge, topex
AbstractWe investigate climate-related processes causing variations of the global mean sea level on interannual to decadal time scale. We focus on thermal expansion of the oceans and continental water mass balance. We show that during the 1990s where global mean sea level change has been measured by Topex/Poseidon satellite altimetry, thermal expansion is the dominant contribution to the observed 2.5 mm/yr sea level rise. For the past decades, exchange of water between continental reservoirs and oceans had a small, but not totally negligible contribution (about 0.2 mm/yr) to sea level rise. For the last four decades, thermal contribution is estimated to about 0.5 mm/yr, with a possible accelerated rate of thermosteric rise during the 1990s. Topex/Poseidon shows an increase in mean sea level of 2.5 mm/yr over the last decade, a value about two times larger than reported by historical tide gauges. This would suggest that there has been significant acceleration of sea level rise in the recent past, possibly related to ocean warming.