Variations in the difference between mean sea level measured either side of Cape Hatteras and their relation to the North Atlantic Oscillation

  • P. L. Woodworth
  • M. Á. Morales Maqueda
  • W. R. Gehrels
  • V. M. Roussenov
  • R. G. Williams
  • C. W. Hughes
Article

Abstract

We consider the extent to which the difference in mean sea level (MSL) measured on the North American Atlantic coast either side of Cape Hatteras varies as a consequence of dynamical changes in the ocean caused by fluctuations in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). From analysis of tide gauge data, we know that changes in MSL-difference and NAO index are correlated on decadal to century timescales enabling a scale factor of MSL-difference change per unit change in NAO index to be estimated. Changes in trend in the NAO index have been small during the past few centuries (when measured using windows of order 60–120 years). Therefore, if the same scale factor applies through this period of time, the corresponding changes in trend in MSL-difference for the past few centuries should also have been small. It is suggested thereby that the sea level records for recent centuries obtained from salt marshes (adjusted for long-term vertical land movements) should have essentially the same NAO-driven trends south and north of Cape Hatteras, only differing due to contributions from other processes such as changes in the Meridional Overturning Circulation or ‘geophysical fingerprints’. The salt marsh data evidently support this interpretation within their uncertainties for the past few centuries, and perhaps even for the past millennium. Recommendations are made on how greater insight might be obtained by acquiring more measurements and by improved modelling of the sea level response to wind along the shelf.

Keywords

Tide gauge measurements Salt marsh sediments Mean sea level variability Gulf Stream North Atlantic Oscillation Meridional overturning circulation 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. L. Woodworth
    • 1
  • M. Á. Morales Maqueda
    • 2
  • W. R. Gehrels
    • 3
  • V. M. Roussenov
    • 4
  • R. G. Williams
    • 4
  • C. W. Hughes
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.National Oceanography CentreLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.School of Marine Science and TechnologyNewcastle UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK
  3. 3.Environment DepartmentUniversity of YorkHeslington, YorkUK
  4. 4.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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