Advertisement

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
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Acknowledgments

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

References

  1. Abeysirigunawardena DS, Walker IJ (2008) Sea level responses to climatic variability and change in Northern British Columbia. Atmos-Ocean 46:277–296. doi: 10.3137/ao.460301 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bogdanov VI, Medvedev MYu, Solodov VA, Trapeznikov YuA, Troshkov GA, Trubitsina AA (2000) Mean monthly series of sea level observations (1777–1993) at the Kronstadt gauge. Reports of the Finnish Geodetic Institute, No. 2000:1. Finnish Geodetic Institute, Kirkkonummi, Finland, p 34Google Scholar
  3. Bromirski PD, Flick RE, Cayan DR (2003) Storminess variability along the California coast: 1858–2000. J Clim 16:982–993CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cayan DR, Bromirski PD, Hayhoe K, Tyree M, Dettinger MD, Flick RE (2008) Climate change projections of sea level extremes along the California coast. Clim Change 87(Suppl 1):S57–S73. doi: 10.1007/s10584-007-9376-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cazenave A (2009) Sea level: regional and global trends. In: Hall J, Harrison DE, Stammer D (eds) Proceedings of OceanObs’09: sustained ocean observations and information for society, Venice, Italy, 21–25 September 2009, European Space Agency Publication WPP-306. Downloadable from http://www.oceanobs09.net/cwp/
  6. Church JA, White NJ (2006) A 20th century acceleration in global sea-level rise. Geophys Res Lett 33:L01602. doi: 10.1029/2005GL024826 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Church JA, White NJ (2011) Changes in the rate of sea-level rise from the late 19th to the early 21st century. Surv Geophys (this volume)Google Scholar
  8. Church JA, Gregory JM, Huybrechts P, Kuhn M, Lambeck K, Nhuan MT, Qin D, Woodworth PL (2001) Changes in sea level. In: Houghton JT, Ding Y, Griggs DJ, Noguer M, van der Linden PJ, Dai X, Maskell K, Johnson CA (eds) Climate change 2001: the scientific basis. Contribution of working group I to the third assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  9. Church JA, Aarup T, Woodworth PL, Wilson WS, Nicholls RJ, Rayner R, Lambeck K, Mitchum GT, Steffen K, Cazenave A, Blewitt G, Mitrovica JX, Lowe JA (2010) Sea-level rise and variability: synthesis and outlook for the future. Chapter 13. In: Church JA, Woodworth PL, Aarup T, Wilson WS (eds) Understanding sea-level rise and variability. Wiley-Blackwell, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Church JA, White NJ, Konikow LF, Domingues CM, Cogley JG, Rignot E, Gregory JM, van den Broeke MR, Monaghan A, Velicogna I (2011) The Earth’s sea-level and energy budgets from 1961 to 2008 (submitted for publication)Google Scholar
  11. D’Onofrio EE, Fiore MME, Pousa JL (2008) Changes in the regime of storm surges in Buenos Aires, Argentina. J Coast Res 24:260–265. doi: 10.2112/05-0588.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Domingues CM, Church JA, White NJ, Gleckler PJ, Wijffels SE, Barker PM, Dunn JR (2008) Improved estimates of upper-ocean warming and multi-decadal sea-level rise. Nature 453:1090–1093. doi: 10.1038/nature07080 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Donnelly JP, Cleary P, Newby P, Ettinger R (2004) Coupling instrumental and geological records of sea level change: Evidence from southern New England of an increase in the rate of sea level rise in the late 19th century. Geophys Res Lett 31:L05203. doi: 10.1029/2003GL018933 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Douglas BC (1992) Global sea level acceleration. J Geophys Res 97(C8):12699–12706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ekman M (1988) The world’s longest continued series of sea level observations. Pure Appl Geophys 127:73–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Emery KO, Aubrey DG (1991) Sea levels, land levels, and tide gauges. Springer, New York, 237 ppGoogle Scholar
  17. Fiore MME, D’Onofrio EE, Pousa JL, Schnack EJ, Bertola GR (2009) Storm surges and coastal impacts at Mar del Plata, Argentina. Cont Shelf Res 29:1643–1649. doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2009.05.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fu L-L, Cazenave A (eds) (2001) Satellite altimetry and Earth sciences. A handbook of techniques and applications. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  19. Gehrels WR (2010) Sea-level changes since the Last Glacial Maximum: an appraisal of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. J Quat Sci 25:26–38. doi: 10.1002/jqs.1273 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gehrels WR, Kirby J, Prokoph A, Newnham R, Achterberg E, Evans H, Black S, Scott D (2005) Onset of recent rapid sea level rise in the western Atlantic Ocean. Quat Sci Rev 24:2083–2100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gehrels WR, Marshall WA, Gehrels MJ, Larsen G, Kirby JR, Eriksson J, Heinemeier J, Shimmield T (2006) Rapid sea level rise in the North Atlantic Ocean since the first half of the 19th century. The Holocene 16:948–964Google Scholar
  22. Gehrels WR, Hayward BW, Newnham RM, Southall KE (2008) A 20th century sea-level acceleration in New Zealand. Geophys Res Lett 35:L02717. doi: 10.1029/2007GL032632 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gehrels WR, Callard SL, Moss P, Marshall W, Milton A, Garnett M (2011) High rates of sea-level rise in the SW Pacific from the start of the 20th century (to be submitted for publication)Google Scholar
  24. Haigh I, Nicholls R, Wells N (2010) Assessing changes in extreme sea levels: application to the English Channel, 1900–2006. Cont Shelf Res 30:1042–1055. doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2010.02.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Holgate SJ (2007) On the decadal rates of sea level change during the twentieth century. Geophys Res Lett 34:L01602. doi: 10.1029/2006GL028492 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Holgate SJ, Woodworth PL (2004) Evidence for enhanced coastal sea level rise during the 1990s. Geophys Res Lett 31:L07305. doi: 10.1029/2004GL019626 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hunter J (2010) Estimating sea-level extremes under conditions of uncertain sea-level rise. Clim Change 99:331–350. doi: 10.1007/s10584-009-9671-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hunter J, Coleman R, Pugh D (2003) The sea level at Port Arthur, Tasmania, from 1841 to the present. Geophys Res Lett 30:1401. doi: 10.1029/2002GL016813 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. IPCC (2011) Special report of the “managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation (SREX)” activity of Working Group 2 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. To be published in 2011 (see http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/extremes-sr/index.html)
  30. Jay DA (2009) Evolution of tidal amplitudes in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Geophys Res Lett 36:L04603. doi: 10.1029/2008GL036185 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jevrejeva S, Grinsted A, Moore JC, Holgate SJ (2006) Nonlinear trends and multiyear cycles in sea level records. J Geophys Res 111:C09012. doi: 10.1029/2005JC003229 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jevrejeva S, Moore JC, Grinsted A, Woodworth PL (2008) Recent global sea level acceleration started over 200 years ago? Geophys Res Lett 35:L08715. doi: 10.1029/2008GL033611 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kemp AC, Horton BP, Culver SJ, Corbett DR, van de Plassche O, Gehrels WR, Douglas BC, Parnell AC (2009) Timing and magnitude of recent accelerated sea-level rise (North Carolina, United States). Geology 37:1035–1038CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lambeck K, Woodroffe CD, Antonioli F, Anzidei M, Gehrels WR, Laborel J, Wright AJ (2010) Palaeoenvironmental records, geophysical modelling and reconstruction of sea-level trends and variability on centennial and longer time scales. Chapter 4. In: Church JA, Woodworth PL, Aarup T, Wilson S (eds) Understanding sea-level rise and variability. Wiley-Blackwell, LondonGoogle Scholar
  35. Leorri E, Horton BP, Cearetta A (2008) Development of a foraminifera-based transfer function in the Basque marshes, N. Spain: implications for sea-level studies in the Bay of Biscay. Mar Geol 251:60–74. doi: 10.1016/j.margeo.2008.02.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Letetrel C, Marcos M, Martín Míguez B, Wöppelmann G (2010) Sea level extremes in Marseille (NW Mediterranean) during 1885–2008. Cont Shelf Res 30:1267–1274. doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2010.04.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Long AJ, Woodroffe SA, Milne GA, Bryant CL, Wake LM (2010) Relative sea level change in west Greenland during the last millennium. Quat Sci Rev 29:367–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lowe JA, Woodworth PL, Knutson T, McDonald RE, McInnes K, Woth K, Von Storch H, Wolf J, Swail V, Bernier N, Gulev S, Horsburgh K, Unnikrishnan AS, Hunter J, Weisse R (2010) Past and future changes in extreme sea levels and waves. Chapter 11. In: Church JA, Woodworth PL, Aarup T, Wilson WS (eds) Understanding sea-level rise and variability. Wiley-Blackwell, LondonGoogle Scholar
  39. Marcos M, Tsimplis MN, Shaw AGP (2009) Sea level extremes in southern Europe. J Geophys Res 114:C01007. doi: 10.1029/2008JC004912 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maul GA, Martin DM (1993) Sea level rise at Key West, Florida, 1846–1992: America’s longest instrument record? Geophys Res Lett 20:1955–1958CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Menéndez M, Woodworth PL (2010) Changes in extreme high water levels based on a quasi-global tide-gauge dataset. J Geophys Res 115:C10011. doi: 10.1029/2009JC005997 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Merrifield MA, Merrifield ST, Mitchum GT (2009a) An anomalous recent acceleration of global sea level rise. J Clim 22:5772–5781. doi: 10.1175/2009JCLI2985.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Merrifield MA, Nerem RS, Mitchum GT, Miller L, Leuliette E, Gill S, Woodworth PL (2009b) Sea level variations, 2008 annual assessment. In: State of the Climate in 2008. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 90:S62–S65Google Scholar
  44. Miller L, Douglas BC (2007) Gyre-scale atmospheric pressure variations and their relation to 19th and 20th century sea level rise. Geophys Res Lett 34:L16602. doi: 10.1029/GL030862 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Milne GA, Gehrels WR, Hughes CW, Tamisiea ME (2009) Identifying the causes of sea-level change. Nat Geosci 2:471–478. doi: 10.1038/NGEO544 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mitchum GT, Nerem RS, Merrifield MA, Gehrels WR (2010) Modern sea-level-change estimates. Chapter 5. In: Church JA, Woodworth PL, Aarup T, Wilson WS (eds) Understanding sea-level rise and variability. Wiley-Blackwell, LondonGoogle Scholar
  47. Mitrovica JX, Tamisiea ME, Milne GA, Davis JL (2001) Recent mass balance of polar ice sheets inferred from patterns of global sea-level change. Nature 409:1026–1029CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mitrovica JX, Tamisiea ME, Ivins ER, Vermeersen LLA, Milne GA, Lambeck K (2010) Surface mass loading on a dynamic Earth: complexity and contamination in the geodetic analysis of global sea-level trends. Chapter 10. In: Church JA, Woodworth PL, Aarup T, Wilson WS (eds) Understanding sea-level rise and variability. Wiley-Blackwell, LondonGoogle Scholar
  49. Moron V, Ullmann A (2005) Relationship between sea-level pressure and sea-level height in the Camargue (French Mediterranean coast). Int J Climatol 25: 1531–1540. doi: 10.1002/joc.1200.Erratum in 2006, Int J Climatol 26:987. doi: 10.1002/joc.1320 Google Scholar
  50. Mudersbach C, Jensen J (2010) Nonstationary extreme value analysis of annual maximum water levels for designing coastal structures on the German North Sea coastline. J Flood Risk Manag 3:52–62. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-318X.2009.01054.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. NTC (National Tidal Centre) (2009) The Australian baseline sea level monitoring project. Annual sea level data summary report, July 2008–June 2009. National Tidal Centre, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Kent Town, South Australia, 41 pp. Available from http://www.bom.gov.au/ntc/IDO60202/IDO60202.2009.pdf
  52. Pouvreau N (2008) Trois cents ans de mesures marégraphiques en France: outils, méthodes et tendances des composantes du niveau de la mer au port de Brest, PhD thesis, University of La RochelleGoogle Scholar
  53. Prandi P, Cazenave A, Becker M (2009) Is coastal mean sea level rising faster than the global mean? A comparison between tide gauges and satellite altimetry over 1993–2007. Geophys Res Lett 36:L05602. doi: 10.1029/2008GL036564 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rahmstorf S, Cazenave A, Church JA, Hansen JE, Keeling RF, Parker DE, Somerville RCJ (2007) Recent climate observations compared to projections. Science 316:709. doi: 10.1126/science.1136843 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Raicich F (2007) A study of early Trieste sea level data (1875–1914). J Coast Res 23:1067–1073. doi: 10.2112/04-0325.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ray RD (2009) Secular changes in the solar semidiurnal tide of the western North Atlantic Ocean. Geophys Res Lett 36:L19601. doi: 10.1029/2009GL040217 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Testut L, Wöppelmann G, Simon B, Téchiné P (2006) The sea level at Port-aux-Français, Kerguelen Island, from 1950 to the present. Ocean Dyn 56(5–6). doi: 10.1007/s10236-005-0056-8
  58. Testut L, Martin Miguez B, Wöppelmann G, Tiphaneau P, Pouvreau N, Karpytchev M (2010) Sea level at Saint Paul Island, Southern Indian Ocean, from 1874 to the present. J Geophys Res. doi: 10.1029/2010JC006404
  59. Thompson KR, Bernier NB, Chan P (2009) Extreme sea levels, coastal flooding and climate change with a focus on Atlantic Canada. Nat Hazards 51:139–150. doi: 10.1007/s11069-009-9380-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tsimplis MN, Baker TF (2000) Sea level drop in the Mediterranean Sea: an indicator of deep water salinity and temperature changes? Geophys Res Lett 27:1731–1734CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tsimplis MN, Shaw AGP (2010) Seasonal sea level extremes in the Mediterranean Sea and at the Atlantic European coasts. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 10:1457–1475. doi: 10.5194/nhess-10-1457-2010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tsimplis MN, Marcos M, Pérez B, Challenor P, Garcia-Fernandez MJ, Raicich F (2009) On the effect of the sampling frequency of sea level measurements on return period estimate of extremes—Southern European examples. Cont Shelf Res 29:2214–2221. doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2009.08.015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ullmann A, Monbaliu J (2010) Changes in atmospheric circulation over the North Atlantic and sea-surge variations along the Belgian coast during the twentieth century. Int J Climatol 30:558–568. doi: 10.1002/joc.1904 Google Scholar
  64. Ullmann A, Moron V (2008) Weather regimes and sea surge variations over the Gulf of Lions (French Mediterranean coast) during the 20th century. Int J Climatol 28:159–171. doi: 10.1002/joc.1527 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Ullmann A, Pirazzoli PA, Tomasin A (2007) Sea surges in Camargue: trends over the 20th century. Cont Shelf Res 27:922–934. doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2006.12.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Ullmann A, Pirazzoli PA, Moron V (2008) Sea surges around the Gulf of Lions and atmospheric conditions. Glob Planet Change 63:203–214. doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha2007.10.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Vilibić I, Šepić J (2009) Long-term variability and trends of sea level storminess and extremes in European Seas. Glob Planet Chang 71:1–12. doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2009.12.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wake LM, Milne GA, Leuliette E (2006) 20th Century sea-level change along the eastern US: unravelling the contributions from steric changes, Greenland ice sheet mass balance and Late Pleistocene glacial loading. Earth Planet Sci Lett 250:572–580. doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2006.08.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Watson C, Burgette R, Tregoning P, White N, Hunter J, Coleman R, Handsworth R, Brolsma H (2010) Twentieth century constraints on sea level change and earthquake deformation at Macquarie Island. Geophys J Int 182:781–796. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2010.04640.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. White NJ, Church JA, Gregory JM (2005) Coastal, global averaged sea level rise for 1950 to 2000. Geophys Res Lett 32:L01601. doi: 10.1029/2004GL021391 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Woodworth PL (1990) A search for accelerations in records of European mean sea level. Int J Climatol 10:129–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Woodworth PL (1999) High waters at Liverpool since 1768: the UK’s longest sea level record. Geophys Res Lett 26:1589–1592CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Woodworth PL (2010) A survey of recent changes in the main components of the ocean tide. Cont Shelf Res 30:1680–1691. doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2010.07.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Woodworth PL, Blackman DL (2004) Evidence for systematic changes in extreme high waters since the mid-1970s. J Clim 17:1190–1197. doi: 10.1175/1520-0442 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Woodworth PL, Player R (2003) The permanent service for mean sea level: an update to the 21st century. J Coast Res 19:287–295Google Scholar
  76. Woodworth PL, Aarup T, Merrifield M, Mitchum GT, Le Provost C (2003) Measuring progress of the global sea level observing system. EOS Trans Am Geophys Union 84(50):565. doi: 10.1029/2003EO500009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Woodworth PL, White NJ, Jevrejeva S, Holgate SJ, Church JA, Gehrels WR (2009a) Evidence for the accelerations of sea level on multi-decade and century timescales. Int J Climatol 29:777–789. doi: 10.1002/joc.1771 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Woodworth P, Foden P, Pugh J, Mathews A, Aarup T, Aman A, Nkebi E, Odametey J, Facey R, Esmail MYA, Ashraf M (2009b) Insight into long term sea level change based on new tide gauge installations at Takoradi, Aden and Karachi. Int Hydrogr Rev No.1 (May 2009), 18–23. (http://www.iho-ohi.net/mtg_docs/IHReview/2009/IHR_May2009_Article02_1.pdf)
  79. Woodworth PL, Pugh DT, Bingley RM (2010a) Long term and recent changes in sea level in the Falkland Islands. J Geophys Res 115:C09025. doi: 10.1029/2010JC006113 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Woodworth PL, Pouvreau N, Wöppelmann G (2010b) The gyre-scale circulation of the North Atlantic and sea level at Brest. Ocean Sci 6:185–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Wöppelmann G, Pouvreau N, Coulomb A, Simon B, Woodworth P (2008) Tide gauge datum continuity at Brest since 1711: France’s longest sea-level record. Geophys Res Lett 35:L22605. doi: 10.1029/2008GL035783 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations