Understanding projections of sea level rise in a Hadley Centre coupled climate model



[1] Sea level changes resulting from CO2-induced climate changes in ocean density and circulation have been investigated in a series of idealised experiments with the Hadley Centre HadCM3 AOGCM. Changes in the mass of the ocean were not included. In the global mean, salinity changes have a negligible effect compared with the thermal expansion of the ocean. Regionally, sea level changes are projected to deviate greatly from the global mean (standard deviation is 40% of the mean). Changes in surface fluxes of heat, freshwater and wind stress are all found to produce significant and distinct regional sea level changes, wind stress changes being the most important and the cause of several pronounced local features, while heat and freshwater flux changes affect large parts of the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean. Regional change is related mainly to density changes, with a relatively small contribution in mid and high latitudes from change in the barotropic circulation. Regional density change has an important contribution from redistribution of ocean heat content. In general, unlike in the global mean, the regional pattern of sea level change due to density change appears to be influenced almost as much by salinity changes as by temperature changes, often in opposition. Such compensation is particularly marked in the North Atlantic, where it is consistent with recent observed changes. We suggest that density compensation is not a property of climate change specifically, but a general behavior of the ocean.