Contemporary Sea Level Variations, Observations and Causes

  • Anny Cazenave


Sea level change is a very sensitive index of climate change and variability. For example, as the ocean warms in response to global warming, seawaters expand, and thus sea level rises. When mountain glaciers melt in response to increasing air temperature, sea level rises because of freshwater mass input to the oceans. Similarly, ice mass loss from the ice sheets causes sea level rise. Corresponding increase of freshwater into the oceans changes water salinity, hence seawater density as well as ocean circulation that in turn affects sea level and its spatial variability. Modification of the land hydrological cycle due to climate variability and direct anthropogenic forcing leads to increased or decreased runoff, hence ultimately to sea level change. Hence local and regional climate changes may affect the sea level.


Pacific Decadal Oscillation Satellite Altimetry Ocean Warming Glacial Isostatic Adjustment Ocean Thermal Expansion 
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.



Large persistent ice body, generally formed in mountain areas by snow accumulation during winter and further compaction into ice.

Ice sheets

Ice bodies covering the Greenland and Antarctica continents.

Mean sea level

A measure of the average height of the ocean’s surface with respect to a fixed reference surface.

Satellite altimetry

Space technique dedicated to the measurement of the height of the sea surface from a satellite-borne radar altimeter.

Sea level rise

Sea level rises in response to global warming. The components that cause sea level rise are ocean thermal expansion and freshwater mass addition to the oceans due to land ice melt and land water-storage decrease.

Steric sea level

Contribution to observed sea level due to temperature and salinity variations.

Thermal expansion

Volume change of ocean water response to a change in temperature.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LEGOS, Laboratoire d’Etudes en Geophysique et Oceanographie SpatialesToulouseFrance

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