Spatial variability of sea level rise due to water impoundment behind dams
Article first published online: 19 JUN 2010
Copyright 2010 by the American Geophysical Union.
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 37, Issue 12, June 2010
How to Cite
2010), Spatial variability of sea level rise due to water impoundment behind dams, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L12603, doi:10.1029/2010GL043462., and (
- Issue published online: 19 JUN 2010
- Article first published online: 19 JUN 2010
- Manuscript Accepted: 18 MAY 2010
- Manuscript Revised: 12 MAY 2010
- Manuscript Received: 29 MAR 2010
- sea level rise;
- spatial variability
 Dams have impounded ∼10,800 km3 of water since 1900, reducing global sea level by ∼30.0 mm and decreasing the rate of sea level rise. The load from impounded water depresses the earth's surface near dams and elevates the geoid, which locally increases relative sea level (RSL). We computed patterns of dam-induced RSL change globally, and estimated that tide gauges, which are often close to dams, recorded only ∼60% of the global average sea level drop due to reservoir building. Thus, RSL in the globally averaged ocean rose ∼0.2 mm/yr more slowly than has been recorded by tide gauges, or ∼10% slower than the measured rise rate of 1.5–2.0 mm/yr. Relative proximity to dams caused RSL to rise fastest in northeastern North America and slowest in the Pacific. This dam-induced spatial variability may mask the sea level “fingerprint” of melting sources, especially northern (Greenland) sources of glacial unloading.