eCite Digital Repository

Understanding and projecting sea level change


Church, JA and Gregory, JM and White, NJ and Platten, SM and Mitrovica, JX, Understanding and projecting sea level change, Oceanography: Serving Ocean Science and Its Applications, 24, (2) pp. 130-143. ISSN 1042-8275 (2011) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2011 The Oceanography Society

DOI: doi:10.5670/oceanog.2011.33


There is intense scientific and public interest in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections of sea level for the twenty-first century and beyond. The Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) projections, obtained by applying standard methods to the results of the World Climate Research Programme Coupled Model Experiment, includes estimates of ocean thermal expansion, the melting of glaciers and ice caps (G&ICs), increased melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, and increased precipitation over Greenland and Antarctica, partially offsetting other contributions. The AR4 recognized the potential for a rapid dynamic ice sheet response but robust methods for quantifying it were not available. Illustrative scenarios suggested additional sea level rise on the order of 10 to 20 cm or more, giving a wide range in the global averaged projections of about 20 to 80 cm by 2100. Currently, sea level is rising at a rate near the upper end of these projections. Since publication of the AR4 in 2007, biases in historical ocean temperature observations have been identified and significantly reduced, resulting in improved estimates of ocean thermal expansion. Models that include all climate forcings are in good agreement with these improved observations and indicate the importance of stratospheric aerosol loadings from volcanic eruptions. Estimates of the volumes of G&ICs and their contributions to sea level rise have improved. Results from recent (but possibly incomplete) efforts to develop improved ice sheet models should be available for the 2013 IPCC projections. Improved understanding of sea level rise is paving the way for using observations to constrain projections. Understanding of the regional variations in sea level change as a result of changes in ocean properties, windstress patterns, and heat and freshwater inputs into the ocean is improving. Recently, estimates of sea level changes resulting from changes in Earth's gravitational field and the solid Earth response to changes in surface loading have been included in regional projections. While potentially valuable, semi-empirical models have important limitations, and their projections should be treated with caution.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:climate change, projections
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Physical oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Climate change models
UTAS Author:Church, JA (Dr John Church)
ID Code:119805
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:90
Deposited By:Oceans and Cryosphere
Deposited On:2017-08-04
Last Modified:2017-11-03
Downloads:236 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page