Simulated global-mean sea level changes over the last half-millennium

J. M. Gregory, J. A. Lowe, S. F. B. Tett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Simulations of the last 500 yr carried out using the Third Hadley Centre Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere GCM (HadCM3) with anthropogenic and natural (solar and volcanic) forcings have been analyzed. Global-mean surface temperature change during the twentieth century is well reproduced. Simulated contributions to global-mean sea level rise during recent decades due to thermal expansion (the largest term) and to mass loss from glaciers and ice caps agree within uncertainties with observational estimates of these terms, but their sum falls short of the observed rate of sea level rise. This discrepancy has been discussed by previous authors; a completely satisfactory explanation of twentieth-century sea level rise is lacking. The model suggests that the apparent onset of sea level rise and glacier retreat during the first part of the nineteenth century was due to natural forcing. The rate of sea level rise was larger during the twentieth century than during the previous centuries because of anthropogenic forcing, but decreasing natural forcing during the second half of the twentieth century tended to offset the anthropogenic acceleration in the rate. Volcanic eruptions cause rapid falls in sea level, followed by recovery over several decades. The model shows substantially less decadal variability in sea level and its thermal expansion component than twentieth-century observations indicate, either because it does not generate sufficient ocean internal variability, or because the observational analyses overestimate the variability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4576-4591
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2006


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