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Sea-level rise at tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean islands


Church, JA and White, N and Hunter, JR, Sea-level rise at tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean islands, Global and Planetary Change, 53, (3) pp. 155-168. ISSN 0921-8181 (2006) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2006.04.001


Historical and projected sea-levels for islands in the tropical Pacific and Indian oceans are a subject of considerable interest and some controversy. The large variability (e.g. El Nio) signals and the shortness of many of the individual tide-gauge records contribute to uncertainty of historical rates of sea-level rise. Here, we determine rates of sea-level rise from tide gauges in the region. We also examine sea-level data from the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite altimeter and from a reconstruction of sea level in order to put the sparse (in space and time) tide-gauge data into context. For 1993 to 2001, all the data show large rates of sea-level rise over the western Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean (approaching 30 mm yr− 1) and sea-level falls in the eastern Pacific and western Indian Ocean (approaching − 10 mm yr− 1). Over the region 40S to 40N, 30E to 120W, the average rise is about 4 mm yr− 1. For 1950 to 2001, the average sea-level rise (relative to land) from the six longest tide-gauge records is 1.4 mm yr− 1. After correcting for glacial isostatic adjustment and atmospheric pressure effects, this rate is 2.0 mm yr− 1, close to estimates of the global average and regional average rate of rise. The long tide-gauge records in the equatorial Pacific indicate that the variance of monthly averaged sea-level after 1970 is about twice that before 1970. We find no evidence for the fall in sea level at the Maldives as postulated by Mrner et al. (2004). Our best estimate of relative sea-level rise at Funafuti, Tuvalu is 2 1 mm yr− 1 over the period 1950 to 2001. The analysis clearly indicates that sea-level in this region is rising. We expect that the continued and increasing rate of sea-level rise and any resulting increase in the frequency or intensity of extreme sea-level events will cause serious problems for the inhabitants of some of these islands during the 21st century.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
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:Effects of climate change on the South Pacific (excl. Australia and New Zealand) (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Church, JA (Dr John Church)
UTAS Author:Hunter, JR (Dr John Hunter)
ID Code:71366
Year Published:2006
Web of Science® Times Cited:188
Deposited By:Research Division
Deposited On:2011-07-15
Last Modified:2011-07-15

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