Abstract

Global mean sea level (GMSL) has been rising at a faster rate during the satellite altimetry period (1993–2014) than previous decades, and is expected to accelerate further over the coming century1. However, the accelerations observed over century and longer periods2 have not been clearly detected in altimeter data spanning the past two decades3,4,5. Here we show that the rise, from the sum of all observed contributions to GMSL, increases from 2.2 ± 0.3 mm yr−1 in 1993 to 3.3 ± 0.3 mm yr−1 in 2014. This is in approximate agreement with observed increase in GMSL rise, 2.4 ± 0.2 mm yr−1 (1993) to 2.9 ± 0.3 mm yr−1 (2014), from satellite observations that have been adjusted for small systematic drift, particularly affecting the first decade of satellite observations6. The mass contributions to GMSL increase from about 50% in 1993 to 70% in 2014 with the largest, and statistically significant, increase coming from the contribution from the Greenland ice sheet, which is less than 5% of the GMSL rate during 1993 but more than 25% during 2014. The suggested acceleration and improved closure of the sea-level budget highlights the importance and urgency of mitigating climate change and formulating coastal adaption plans to mitigate the impacts of ongoing sea-level rise.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 13, 1137–1216 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  2. 2.

    , , & Recent global sea level acceleration started over 200 years ago? Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L08715 (2008).

  3. 3.

    et al. The rate of sea-level rise. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 358–361 (2014).

  4. 4.

    & Closing the sea level rise budget with altimetry, Argo, and GRACE. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L04608 (2009).

  5. 5.

    , & Assessing the globally averaged sea level budget on seasonal to interannual timescales. J. Geophys. Res. 113, (2008).

  6. 6.

    et al. Unabated global mean sea-level rise over the satellite altimeter era. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 565–568 (2015).

  7. 7.

    et al. A reconciled estimate of ice-sheet mass balance. Science 338, 1183–1189 (2012).

  8. 8.

    , , & Gulf Stream’s induced sea level rise and variability along the US mid-Atlantic coast. J. Geophys. Res. 118, 685–697 (2013).

  9. 9.

    , , & Attribution of global glacier mass loss to anthropogenic and natural causes. Science 345, 919–921 (2014).

  10. 10.

    , , , & Global-scale assessment of groundwater depletion and related groundwater abstractions: combining hydrological modeling with information from well observations and GRACE satellites. Wat. Resour. Res. 50, 5698–5720 (2014).

  11. 11.

    et al. Past and future contribution of global groundwater depletion to sea-level rise. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L09402 (2012).

  12. 12.

    , , & On the trend, detrending, and variability of nonlinear and nonstationary time series. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 14889–14894 (2007).

  13. 13.

    & Ensemble empirical mode decomposition: a noise-assisted data analysis method. Adv. Adapt. Data Anal. 1, 1–41 (2009).

  14. 14.

    et al. The empirical mode decomposition and the Hilbert spectrum for nonlinear and non-stationary time series analysis. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 454, 903–995 (1998).

  15. 15.

    , , , & The 2011 La Niña: so strong, the oceans fell. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L19602 (2012).

  16. 16.

    et al. Terrestrial waters and sea level variations on interannual time scale. Glob. Planet. Change 75, 76–82 (2011).

  17. 17.

    , , & An increase in the rate of global mean sea level rise since 2010. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 3998–4006 (2015).

  18. 18.

    & ENSO-like variability: 1900–2013. J. Clim. 28, 9623–9641 (2015).

  19. 19.

    et al. Steric sea level variability (1993–2010) in an ensemble of ocean reanalyses and objective analyses. Clim. Dynam. (2015).

  20. 20.

    et al. A comparative analysis of upper-ocean heat content variability from an ensemble of operational ocean reanalyses. J. Clim. 25, 6905–6929 (2012).

  21. 21.

    & Tracking Earth’s energy. Science 328, 316–317 (2010).

  22. 22.

    & Accelerated West Antarctic ice mass loss continues to outpace East Antarctic gains. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 415, 134–141 (2015).

  23. 23.

    et al. Fate of water pumped from underground and contributions to sea-level rise. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 777–780 (2016).

  24. 24.

    , & Contribution of climate-driven change in continental water storage to recent sea-level rise. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 100, 13158–13161 (2003).

  25. 25.

    et al. A decade of sea level rise slowed by climate-driven hydrology. Science 351, 699–703 (2016).

  26. 26.

    , & Present-day sea level rise: a synthesis. C. R. Geosci. 340, 761–770 (2008).

  27. 27.

    IPCC in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  28. 28.

    , & Significant decadal-scale impact of volcanic eruptions on sea level and ocean heat content. Nature 438, 74–77 (2005).

  29. 29.

    Long-term effect of volcanic forcing on ocean heat content. Geophys. Res. Lett. 37, L22701 (2010).

  30. 30.

    , & Is the detection of accelerated sea level rise imminent? Sci. Rep. 6, 31245 (2016).

  31. 31.

    et al. Lower satellite-gravimetry estimates of Antarctic sea-level contribution. Nature 491, 586–589 (2012).

  32. 32.

    & A review on Hilbert-Huang transform: method and its applications to geophysical studies. Rev. Geophys. 46, RG2006 (2008).

  33. 33.

    & Is sea level rise accelerating in the Chesapeake Bay? A demonstration of a novel new approach for analyzing sea level data. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, (2012).

  34. 34.

    , , & Increasing flooding hazard in coastal communities due to rising sea level: case study of Miami Beach, Florida. Ocean Coast. Manage. 126, 1–8 (2016).

  35. 35.

    , & Global sea level trend during 1993–2012. Glob. Planet. Change 112, 26–32 (2014).

  36. 36.

    , , , & On the time-varying trend in global-mean surface temperature. Clim. Dynam. 37, 759–773 (2011).

  37. 37.

    , , & Evolution of land surface air temperature trend. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 462–466 (2014).

  38. 38.

    & Forecasting sea level anomalies from TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 satellite altimetry. J. Geodesy 83, 469–476 (2009).

  39. 39.

    & Minimum time span of TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1 and Jason-2 global altimeter data to detect a significant trend and acceleration in sea level change. Adv. Space Res. 47, 1248–1255 (2011).

  40. 40.

    et al. Statistical significance of trends and trend differences in layer-average atmospheric temperature time series. J. Geophys. Res. 105, 7337–7356 (2000).

  41. 41.

    et al. Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year. Nature 457, 459–462 (2009).

  42. 42.

    , & Nonlinear sea-level trends and long-term variability on Western European Coasts. J. Coast. Res. 744–755 (2016).

  43. 43.

    Evaluation of empirical mode decomposition for quantifying multi-decadal variations and acceleration in sea level records. Nonlinear Proc. Geophys. 22, 157–166 (2015).

  44. 44.

    , & A review of trend models applied to sea level data with reference to the ‘acceleration-deceleration debate’. J. Geophys. Res. 120, 3873–3895 (2015).

  45. 45.

    & A practical guide to wavelet analysis. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 79, 61–78 (1998).

Download references

Acknowledgements

The work was done while X.C. visited CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere (Hobart, Australia) as a CSIRO—Chinese Ministry of Education visiting scholar, sponsored by the China Scholarship Council. The authors thank A. B. A. Slangen for her useful comments and assistance with data sets. X.C. was supported by the National Key Basic Research Program of China under Grant 2015CB953900 and the Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant 41521091 and 41330960. The altimeter calibration and validation was supported by the Australian Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS)—IMOS is a national collaborative research infrastructure, supported by the Australian Government. J.A.C., X.Z., D.M. and B.L. were supported by the Australian Climate Change Science Program (ACCSP) and National Environmental Science Programme (NESP). M.A.K. was supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (Project ID FT110100207).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Physical Oceanography Laboratory/CIMST, Ocean University of China and Qingdao National Laboratory of Marine Science and Technology, Qingdao 266100, China

    • Xianyao Chen
  2. CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research, Hobart, Tasmania 7000, Australia

    • Xuebin Zhang
    • , Didier Monselesan
    •  & Benoit Legresy
  3. Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia

    • John A. Church
  4. Discipline of Geography and Spatial Sciences, School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia

    • Christopher S. Watson
    •  & Matt A. King
  5. Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

    • Christopher Harig

Authors

  1. Search for Xianyao Chen in:

  2. Search for Xuebin Zhang in:

  3. Search for John A. Church in:

  4. Search for Christopher S. Watson in:

  5. Search for Matt A. King in:

  6. Search for Didier Monselesan in:

  7. Search for Benoit Legresy in:

  8. Search for Christopher Harig in:

Contributions

X.C., X.Z. and J.A.C. undertook the analysis of global sea-level budget and led the drafting of this manuscript. X.C. carried out the EEMD analysis and produced all figures. M.A.K. and C.S.W. undertook the adjustment of satellite altimeter data. X.Z. processed steric sea-level data sets; D.M. and B.L. processed the altimeter and terrestrial water storage data sets. C.H. processed the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet data sets. All authors contributed significantly to the drafting and revision of this manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Xianyao Chen or Xuebin Zhang.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Information

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3325

Further reading