Revisiting the contemporary sea-level budget on global and regional scales

Jens.Schroeter [ at ]


Significance Understanding sea-level change is of paramount importance because it reflects climate-related factors, such as the ocean heat budget, mass changes in the cryosphere, and natural ocean/atmosphere variations. Furthermore, sea-level rise directly affects coastal areas, which has ramifications for its population and economy. From a novel combination of Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment and radar altimetry data we find over the last 12 y: (i) a larger global steric sea-level rise as previously reported, (ii) a mass contribution to global sea level consistent with mass loss estimates from the world’s ice sheets, glaciers, and hydrological sources, and (iii) regionally resolved sea-level budget components which differ significantly from that of the global sea-level budget. Abstract Dividing the sea-level budget into contributions from ice sheets and glaciers, the water cycle, steric expansion, and crustal movement is challenging, especially on regional scales. Here, Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) gravity observations and sea-level anomalies from altimetry are used in a joint inversion, ensuring a consistent decomposition of the global and regional sea-level rise budget. Over the years 2002–2014, we find a global mean steric trend of 1.38 ± 0.16 mm/y, compared with a total trend of 2.74 ± 0.58 mm/y. This is significantly larger than steric trends derived from in situ temperature/salinity profiles and models which range from 0.66 ± 0.2 to 0.94 ± 0.1 mm/y. Mass contributions from ice sheets and glaciers (1.37 ± 0.09 mm/y, accelerating with 0.03 ± 0.02 mm/y2) are offset by a negative hydrological component (−0.29 ± 0.26 mm/y). The combined mass rate (1.08 ± 0.3 mm/y) is smaller than previous GRACE estimates (up to 2 mm/y), but it is consistent with the sum of individual contributions (ice sheets, glaciers, and hydrology) found in literature. The altimetric sea-level budget is closed by coestimating a remaining component of 0.22 ± 0.26 mm/y. Well above average sea-level rise is found regionally near the Philippines (14.7 ± 4.39 mm/y) and Indonesia (8.3 ± 4.7 mm/y) which is dominated by steric components (11.2 ± 3.58 mm/y and 6.4 ± 3.18 mm/y, respectively). In contrast, in the central and Eastern part of the Pacific, negative steric trends (down to −2.8 ± 1.53 mm/y) are detected. Significant regional components are found, up to 5.3 ± 2.6 mm/y in the northwest Atlantic, which are likely due to ocean bottom pressure variations.

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DOI 10.1073/pnas.1519132113

Cite as
Rietbroek, R. , Brunnabend, S. E. , Kusche, J. , Schröter, J. and Dahle, C. (2016): Revisiting the contemporary sea-level budget on global and regional scales , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113 (6), pp. 1504-1509 . doi: 10.1073/pnas.1519132113

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