Boon, J.D. and Mitchell, M., 2015. Nonlinear change in sea level observed at North American tide stations.
The rate at which coastal sea level is expected to rise or fall is of considerable interest to coastal residents and managers who view changes on the time scale of a 30-year mortgage. Analysis of historical records at North American tide stations provides evidence of recent nonlinear sea-level change at this scale using relative mean sea-level (RMSL) observations. RMSL tracks local inundation risk directly without the need to correct an accepted worldwide geocentric measure—e.g., global mean sea-level rise—with locally estimated vertical rate adjustments. Published RMSL linear trends provide essential information but are routinely compared between tide stations with widely varying record lengths, thereby obfuscating nonlinear change (acceleration or deceleration) over a specific period of time. Here monthly averaged RMSL data from 45 U.S. tide stations and one Canadian tide station are analyzed from 1969 through 2014, extending a definitive period of acceleration previously noted along the U.S. NE Coast. Using a Bayesian approach to determine the joint probability of paired regression parameters for RMSL quadratic trends, probabilities for forward projections to the year 2050 based on these trends suggest continued sea-level rise will be aided by acceleration presently on the order of 0.1 to 0.2 mm/y2 in the U.S. NE and Gulf Coast regions. Deceleration ranging from −0.1 to −0.4 mm/y2 is likely to reinforce falling sea levels at specific locations on the U.S. West Coast in the near term.