ABSTRACT

Watson, P.J., 2016. Acceleration in U.S. mean sea level? A new insight using improved tools.

The detection of acceleration in mean sea level around the data-rich margins of the United States has been a keen endeavour of sea-level researchers following the seminal work of Bruce Douglas in 1992. Over the past decade, such investigations have taken on greater prominence given mean sea level remains a key proxy by which to measure a changing climate system. The physics-based climate projection models are forecasting that the current global average rate of mean sea-level rise (≈3 mm/y) might climb to rates in the range of 10–20 mm/y by 2100. Most research in this area has centred on reconciling current rates of rise with the significant accelerations required to meet the forecast projections of climate models. The analysis in this paper is based on a recently developed analytical package titled “msltrend,” specifically designed to enhance estimates of trend, real-time velocity and acceleration in the relative mean sea-level signal derived from long annual average ocean-water-level time series. Key findings are that at the 95% confidence level, no consistent or substantial evidence (yet) exists that recent rates of rise are higher or abnormal in the context of the historical records available for the United States, nor does any evidence exist that geocentric rates of rise are above the global average. It is likely that a further 20 years of data will identify whether recent increases east of Galveston and along the east coast are evidence of the onset of climate change induced acceleration.

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