A Weak, Positive Feedback Between Sea Level and the Earth's Planetary Energy Budget

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Ben Marzeion, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria and Anders Levermann, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany
Increases in global mean temperature lead to increasing sea level mostly by loss of land ice mass and thermal expansion of the ocean. On millennial timescales, a warming of 5 K leads to flooding of about 1.6 % of Earth's current land surface, when taking into account the spatial distribution of relative sea-level rise caused by mass redistribution and isostatic rebound (Marzeion & Levermann, 2014). While there is great seasonal and spatial variability, the planetary albedo over the ocean is generally slightly lower than over land. We use millennial-scale, spatially explicit projections of relative sea-level rise, and the observed spatio-temporal distribution of planetary albedo and incident shortwave radiation, to determine the strength of the feedback between sea-level rise and the planetary energy budget.

We find that the feedback is positive, but very weak. While the spatial pattern of sea-level rise is varying strongly with temperature, we find that the strength of the feedback is relatively independent of the temperature change, and around 0.8±0.1 %; i.e., an external forcing of 1 W/m2 will result in 1.008 W/m2 change of the energy balance.