The Sea Level Fingerprints of Global Change
Thursday, 18 December 2014: 2:10 PM
It may be difficult to persuade those living in northern Europe that the sea level changes that their coastal communities face depends less on the total melting of polar ice sheets and glaciers than on the individual contributions to this total. In particular, melting of a specific ice sheet or mountain glacier drives deformational, gravitational and rotational perturbations to the Earth system that are manifest in a unique geometry, or fingerprint, of global sea level change. For example, melting from the Greenland Ice Sheet equivalent to 1 mm/yr of global mean sea level (GMSL) rise will lead to sea level rise of ~0 mm/yr in Dublin, ~0.2 mm/yr in Amsterdam, ~0.4 mm/yr in Boston and ~1.2 mm/yr in Cape Town. In contrast, if the same volume of ice melted from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, all of the above sites would experience a sea level rise in the range 1.1-1.2 mm/yr. These fingerprints of modern ice melting, together with ocean thermal expansion and dynamic effects, and the ongoing signal from glacial isostatic adjustment in response to the last ice age, combine to produce a sea level field with significant geographic variability. In this talk I will highlight an analysis of global tide gauge records that takes full advantage of this variability to estimate both GMSL and the sources of meltwater over the last century, and to project GMSL to the end of the current century.