Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 32, Issue 4–5, pp 603–618 | Cite as

Evidence for Century-Timescale Acceleration in Mean Sea Levels and for Recent Changes in Extreme Sea Levels

  • Philip L. WoodworthEmail author
  • Melisa Menéndez
  • W. Roland Gehrels


Two of the most important topics in Sea Level Science are addressed in this paper. One is concerned with the evidence for the apparent acceleration in the rate of global sea level change between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and, thereby, with the question of whether the twentieth century sea level rise was a consequence of an accelerated climate change of anthropogenic origin. An acceleration is indeed observed in both tide gauge and saltmarsh data at different locations around the world, yielding quadratic coefficients ‘c’ of order 0.005 mm/year2, and with the most rapid changes of rate of sea level rise occurring around the end of the nineteenth century. The second topic refers to whether there is evidence that extreme sea levels have increased in recent decades at rates significantly different from those in mean levels. Recent results, which suggest that at most locations rates of change of extreme and mean sea levels are comparable, are presented. In addition, a short review is given of recent work on extreme sea levels by other authors. This body of work, which is focused primarily on Europe and the Mediterranean, also tends to support mean and extreme sea levels changing at similar rates at most locations.


Sea level accelerations Extreme sea level changes Tide gauge and saltmarsh measurements Data archaeology 



We thank Dr. Margot Saher of the University of Plymouth for assistance with the production of Fig. 3.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip L. Woodworth
    • 1
    Email author
  • Melisa Menéndez
    • 2
  • W. Roland Gehrels
    • 3
  1. 1.National Oceanography CentreLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.Environmental Hydraulic Institute “IH Cantabria”Universidad de CantabriaSantanderSpain
  3. 3.School of Geography, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PlymouthPlymouthUK

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