To test a hypothesized faster-than-global sea level acceleration along the mid-Atlantic United States, I construct a Gaussian process model that decomposes tide gauge data into short-term variability and longer-term trends, and into globally coherent, regionally coherent, and local components. While tide gauge records indicate a faster-than-global increase in the rate of mid-Atlantic U.S. sea level rise beginning ∼1975, this acceleration could reflect either the start of a long-term trend or ocean dynamic variability. The acceleration will need to continue for ∼2 decades before the rate of increase of the sea level difference between the mid-Atlantic and southeastern U.S. can be judged as very likely unprecedented by 20th century standards. However, the difference is correlated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation, and Gulf Stream North Wall indices, all of which are currently within the range of past variability.
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