Global sea level rise


  • Bruce C. Douglas


Published values for the long-term, global mean sea level rise determined from tide gauge records exhibit considerable scatter, from about 1 mm to 3 mm/yr. This disparity is not attributable to instrument error; long-term trends computed at adjacent sites often agree to within a few tenths of a millimeter per year. Instead, the differing estimates of global sea level rise appear to be in large part due to authors' using data from gauges located at convergent tectonic plate boundaries, where changes of land elevation give fictitious sea level trends. In addition, virtually all gauges undergo subsidence or uplift due to postglacial rebound (PGR) from the last deglaciation at a rate comparable to or greater than the secular rise of sea level. Modeling PGR by the ICE-3G model of Tushingham and Peltier (1991) and avoiding tide gauge records in areas of converging tectonic plates produces a highly consistent set of long sea level records. The value for mean sea level rise obtained from a global set of 21 such stations in nine oceanic regions with an average record length of 76 years during the period 1880–1980 is 1.8 mm/yr±0.1. This result provides confidence that carefully selected long tide gauge records measure the same underlying trend of sea level and that many old tide gauge records are of very high quality.