ABSTRACT

Watson, P.J., 2017. Acceleration in European mean sea-level? A new insight using improved tools.

Research into sea-level rise has taken on particular prominence in more recent times owing to the global threat posed by climate change and the fact that mean sea level and temperature remain the key proxies by which we can measure changes to the climate system. Under various climate change scenarios, it has been estimated that the threat posed by the effects of sea-level rise might lead to annual damage costs across Europe on the order of €25 billion by the 2080s. European mean sea-level records are among the best time series data available globally by which to detect the presence of necessary accelerations forecast by physics-based projection models to elevate current rates of global sea-level rise (≈3 mm/y) to anywhere in the vicinity of 10–20 mm/y by 2100. 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 compelling evidence (yet) exists that recent rates of rise are higher or abnormal in the context of the historical records available across Europe, nor is there any evidence that geocentric rates of rise are above the global average. It is likely a further 20 years of data will distinguish whether recent increases are evidence of the onset of climate change–induced acceleration.

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