Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 18, Issue 2–3, pp 279–292 | Cite as


  • Bruce C. Douglas


It is well established that sea level trends obtained from tide gauge records shorter than about 50-60 years are corrupted by interdecadal sea level variation. However, only a fraction (<25%) of even the long records exhibit globally consistent trends, because of vertical crustal movements. The coherent trends are from tide gauges not at collisional plate boundaries, and not located in or near areas deeply ice-covered during the last glaciation. Douglas (1991), using ICE-3G values for the postglacial (PGR) rebound correction, found 21 usable records (minimum length 60 years, average 76) in 9 oceanographic groups that gave a mean trend for global sea level rise of 1.8 mm/yr ± 0.1 for the period 1880–1980. In that analysis, a significant inconsistency of PGR-corrected U.S. east coast trends was noted, but not resolved. Now, even after eliminating those trends, more (24) long records (minimum 60 years, average 83) are available, including series in the southern hemisphere not previously used. The mean trend of 9 groups made up of the newly-selected records is also 1.8 mm/yr ± 0.1 for global sea level rise over the last 100+ years. A somewhat smaller set of longer records in 8 groups (minimum 70 years, average 91) gives 1.9 mm/yr ± 0.1 for the mean trend. These values are about an order of magnitude larger than the average over the last few millennia. The recent (in historical terms) dramatic increase in the rate of global sea level rise has not been explained, and no acceleration during the last century has been detected. This situation requires additional investigation and confirmation. VLBI/GPS/absolute gravity measurements of crustal motions can be employed to correct many long (60+ years) tide gauge records not now usable because of vertical crustal movements, improving the geographic coverage of sea level trends. Direct altimetric satellite determinations of global sea level rise from satellites such as TOPEX/POSEIDON and its successors can provide an independent estimate in possibly a decade or so, and thereby ascertain whether or not there has been any recent change in the rate of global sea level rise.


Period 1880 Satellite Determination Gravity Measurement Geographic Coverage Altimetric Satellite 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baker, T.F.: 1993,'Absolute sea level measurements, climate change and vertical crustal movements', Global and Planetary Change8,145-149.Google Scholar
  2. Barnett, T.P.: 1984,'The estimation of "Global" sea level change: A problem of uniqueness', J.Geophys.Res.89(c5), 7980-7988.Google Scholar
  3. Bird, E.C.F.: 1993,Submerging Coasts, John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  4. Born, G., Tapley, B., Ries, J., and Stewart, R.: 1986,'Accurate measurement of mean sea level changes by altimetric satellites', J.Geophys.Res.91,11775-11782.Google Scholar
  5. Carter, W.E., Aubrey, D.G., Baker, T., Boucher, C., LeProvost, C., Pugh, D., Peltier, W., Zumberge, M., Rapp, R., Schutz, B., Emery, K., and Enfield, D.: 1989,'Geodetic fixing of tide gauge bench marks', Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Technical Report WHOI-89-31.Google Scholar
  6. Chao, B.F.: 1991,'Man, water, and global sea level', EOS, Trans.Am.Geophys.Union 72(45), 492.Google Scholar
  7. Cheney, R., Miller, L., Agreen, R., Doyle, N., and Lillibridge, J.: 1994,'TOPEX/POSEIDON: The 2-cm solution', J.Geophys.Res.99(C12), 24555-24564.Google Scholar
  8. Church, J.A., Godfrey, J.S., Jacket, D.R., and MacDougal, T.J.: 1991,'A model of sea level rise caused by ocean thermal expansion', J.Climate4(4), 438-456.Google Scholar
  9. Davis, J.L. and Mitrovica, J.X.: 1996,Nature 379,331-333.Google Scholar
  10. Douglas, B.C., Agreen, R.W., and Sandwell, D.T.: 1984,'Observing global ocean circulation with SEASAT altimeter data', Marine Geodesy8(1-4), 67-83.Google Scholar
  11. Douglas, B.C.: 1991,'Global sea level rise', J.Geophys.Res.96(C4), 6981-6992.Google Scholar
  12. Douglas, B.C.: 1992,'Global sea level acceleration', J.Geophys.Res.97(C8), 12,699-12,706.Google Scholar
  13. Douglas, B.C.: 1995,'Global sea level change: Determination and interpretation', Revs.Geophys.(supp.), pp. 1425-1432.Google Scholar
  14. Eden, H.F. (ed.): 1990,Towards an Integrated system for Measuring Long Term Changes in Global Sea Level, Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc., Washington, D.C., May, 1990.Google Scholar
  15. Emery, K.O., and Aubrey, D.G.: 1991,Sea Levels, Land Levels, and Tide Gauges, Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  16. Flemming, N.C.: 1978,'Holocene eustatic changes and coastal tectonics in the northeast Mediter-ranean; implications for models of crustal consumption', Phil.Trans.Royal Soc.London 289(1362), 405-458.Google Scholar
  17. Flemming, N.C.: 1982,'Multiple regression analysis of earth movements and eustatic sea-level change in the United Kingdom in the last 9000 years', Proc.Geol.Assn.93(1), 113-125.Google Scholar
  18. Flemming, N.C. and Webb, C.O.: 1986,'Tectonic and eustatic coastal changes during the last 10,000 years derived from archeological data', Z.Geomorph.N.F. Suppl.-Bd. 62,1-29, Berlin.Google Scholar
  19. Fu, L.-L., Christensen, E., Yamarone, C.A., Lefebvre, M., Menard, Y., Dorrer, M., and Escudier, P.: 1994,'TOPEX/POSEIDON mission overview', J.Geophys.Res.99(24), 24,369-24,382.Google Scholar
  20. Gornitz, V.: 1994,'Sea level rise: A review of recent past and near-future trends', Earth Surface Processes and Trends, in press.Google Scholar
  21. Gornitz, V., Rozenzweig, C., and Hillel, D.: 1995,'Effects of anthropogenic intervention in the land hydrologic cycle on global sea level rise', private communication.Google Scholar
  22. Gornitz, V.: 1995b, 'A comparison of differences between recent and late holocene sea-level trends from eastern North America and other selected regions', J.Coastal Res.Special Issue 17,287-297.Google Scholar
  23. Groger, M. and Plag, H.-P.: 1993,'Estimations of a global sea level trend: Limitations from the structure of the PSMSL global sea level data set', Global and Planetary Change8,161-179.Google Scholar
  24. Hannah, J.: 1990,'Analysis of mean sea level data from New Zealand for the period 1899-1988', J.Geophys.Res.95(B8).Google Scholar
  25. Houghton, J.T., Jenkins, G.J., and Ephraums, J.J. (eds.): 1990,Climatic Change; the IPCC Scientific Assessment, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.Google Scholar
  26. Kearney, M.S. and Stevenson, J.C.: 1991,'Island land loss and marsh vertical accretion rate evidence for historical sea-level changes in Chesapeake Bay', J.Coastal Res.7(2), 403-415.Google Scholar
  27. Kearney, M.S.: 1996,'Sea level change during the last thousand years in Chesapeake Bay', J.Coastal press.Google Scholar
  28. Klopping, F., Peter, G., Robertson, D.S., Berstis, K.A., Moose, R.E., and Carter, W.E.: 1991,'Improve-ments in absolute gravity observations', J.Geophys.Res.96(b5), 8295-8303.Google Scholar
  29. Leatherman, S.P.: 1989,'Impact of accelerated sea level rise on beaches and coastal wetlands', in Global Climate Change Linkages, Elsevier, pp. 43-56.Google Scholar
  30. Leatherman, S.P.: 1991,'Modeling shore response to sea level rise on sedimentary coasts', Progress in Physical Geography 14,447-464.Google Scholar
  31. Leatherman, S. P.: 1992,'Coastal land loss in the Chesapeake Bay region: An historical analogy approach to global climate analysis and response', in J. Schmandt (ed.), The Regions and Global Warming: Impacts and Response Strategies, Oxford University Press, pp. 17-27.Google Scholar
  32. Mitrovica, J.X. and Davis, J.L.: 1995,'Present-day post-glacial sea level change far from the Late Pleistocene ice sheets: Implications for recent analyses of tide gauge records', Geophys.Res.Letters 22(18), 2529-2532.Google Scholar
  33. National Research Council (NRC): 1990,Report on Sea Level Change, National Academy Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  34. Nerem, R.S.: 1995a, 'Global mean sea level variations from TOPEX/POSEIDON altimeter data', Science 268,708-710.Google Scholar
  35. Nerem, R.S., Rachlin, K.E., and Beckley, B.D.: 1995b, 'Long term sea level change observed by TOPEX/POSEIDON', EOS Trans.AGU(supp.).Google Scholar
  36. Nerem, R.S.: 1995c, 'Measuring global mean sea level variations using TOPEX/POSEIDON altimeter data', J.Geophys.Res.100,25,135-25,152.Google Scholar
  37. Nicholls, R.J. and Leatherman, S.P.: 1994,'Global sea-level rise', in K. Strzepek and J.B. Smith (eds.), As Climate Changes: Potential Impacts and Implications, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, in press.Google Scholar
  38. Peltier, W.R., and Tushingham, A.M.: 1989,'Global sea level rise and the greenhouse effect: Might they be connected?', Science 244(4906), 806-810.Google Scholar
  39. Pirazzoli, P.A.: 1993,'Global sea level changes and their measurement', Global Planet.Change8, 135-148.Google Scholar
  40. Shennan, I., and Woodworth, P.L.: 1992,'A comparison of late Holocene and twentieth-century sea-level trends from the UK and North Sea region', Geophys.J.Int.109(1), 96-105.Google Scholar
  41. Spencer, N.E. and Woodworth, P.L.: 1993,'Data holdings of the permanent service for mean sea level, Bidston, Birkenhead: Permanent service for mean sea level'.Google Scholar
  42. Tapley, B.D., Shum, C.K., Guman, M., Chen, J., Ries, J.C., and Chambers, D.P.: 1995,'Monitoring global sea level variations using satellite altimetry', EOS, Trans.Am.Geophys.Union 76(46), F159.Google Scholar
  43. Trupin, A. and Wahr, J.: 1990,'Spectroscopic analysis of global tide gauge sea level data', Geophys.J.Int.100,441-453.Google Scholar
  44. Tushingham, A.M. and Peltier, W.R.: 1991,'ICE-3G: Anewglobal model of late Pleistocene deglacia-tion based upon geophysical predictions of post glacial relative sea level change', J.Geophys.Res.96,4497-4523.Google Scholar
  45. Van Dam, T., Nerem, R.S., and Schenewerk, M.: 1995,'A geodetic network for monitoring sea level in the Chesapeake Bay (BAYONET)', EOS Trans.AGU(supp.).Google Scholar
  46. Varekamp, J.C., Thomas, E., and Van de Plassche, O.: 1992,'Relative sea level rise and climate change over the last 1500 years', Ter ra Nova4,293-304.Google Scholar
  47. Wagner, C.A. and Cheney, R.E.: 1992,'Global sea level change from satellite altimetry', J.Geophys.Res.97(C10), 15607-15615.Google Scholar
  48. Warrick, R.A., Le Provost, C., Meier, M.F., Oerlemans, J., and Woodworth, P.L. (eds.): 1995,Changes in Sea Level, Chapt. 7 of the Second Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Scientific Assessment.Google Scholar
  49. Warrick, R.A., Barrow, E.M., and Wigley, T.M.L. (eds): 1993,Climate and Sea Level Change:Observations, Projections, and Implications, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  50. Woodworth, P.L.: 1990,'A search for accelerations in records of European mean sea level', Int.J.Climat.10,129-143.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce C. Douglas
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations