• shareshare
  • link
  • cite
  • add
Other research product . 2018

Sources of 21st century regional sea-level rise along the coast of northwest Europe

Howard, T.; Pardaens, A. K.; Bamber, J. L.; Ridley, J.; Spada, G.; Hurkmans, R. T. W. L.; Lowe, J. A.; +1 Authors
Open Access
Published: 15 Jan 2018

Changes in both global and regional mean sea level, and changes in the magnitude of extreme flood heights, are the result of a combination of several distinct contributions most, but not all, of which are associated with climate change. These contributions include effects in the solid earth, gravity field, changes in ocean mass due to ice loss from ice sheets and glaciers, thermal expansion, alterations in ocean circulation driven by climate change and changing freshwater fluxes, and the intensity of storm surges. Due to the diverse range of models required to simulate these systems, the contributions to sea-level change have usually been discussed in isolation rather than in one self-consistent assessment. Focusing on the coastline of northwest Europe, we consider all the processes mentioned above and their relative impact on 21st century regional mean sea levels and the 50-year return flood height. As far as possible our projections of change are derived from process-based models forced by the A1B emissions scenario to provide a self-consistent comparison of the contributions. We address uncertainty by considering both a mid-range and an illustrative high-end combination of the different components. For our mid-range ice loss scenario we find that thermal expansion of seawater is the dominant contributor to change in northwest European sea level by 2100. However, the projected contribution to extreme sea level, due to changes in storminess alone, is in some places significant and comparable to the global mean contribution of thermal expansion. For example, under the A1B emissions scenario, by 2100, change in storminess contributes around 15 cm to the increase in projected height of the 50-year storm surge on the west coast of the Jutland Peninsula, compared with a contribution of around 22 cm due to thermal expansion and a total of 58 cm from all of the contributions we consider. An illustrative combination of our high-end projections suggests increases in the 50-year return level of 86 cm at Sheerness, 95 cm at Roscoff, 106 cm at Esbjerg, and 67cm at Bergen. The notable regional differences between these locations arise primarily from differences in the rates of vertical land movement and changes in storminess.

Related Organizations
46 references, page 1 of 5

Araujo, I. B. and Pugh, D. T.: Sea levels at Newlyn 1915-2005: analysis of trends for future flooding risks, J. Coastal Res., 24, 203-212, doi:10.2112/06-0785.1, 2008.

Brown, S., Boorman, P., McDonald, R., and Murphy, J.: Use and interpretation of surface wind projections from the 11-member Met Office Regional Climate Model ensemble, UKCP09 Technical Note. Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, UK, available at: (last access: 12 December 2013), 2009.

Church, J. A., Clark, P. U., Cazenave, A., Gregory, J. M., Jevrejeva, S., Levermann, A., Merrifield, M. A., Milne, G. A., Nerem, R. S., Nunn, P. D., Payne, A. J., Pfeffer, W. T., Stammer, D., and Unnikrishnan, A. S.: Sea level change, in: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, edited by: Stocker, T. F., Qin, D., Plattner, G.-K., Tignor, M., Allen, S. K., Boschung, J., Nauels, A., Xia, Y., Bex, V., and Midgley, P. M., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, in press, 2013.

Coles, S.: An introduction to statistical modeling of extreme values, Springer, 208 pp., 2001.

Collins, M, Booth, B. B. B., Bhaskaran, B, Harris, G. R., Murphy, J. M., Sexton, D. M. H., and Webb, M. J.: Climate model errors, feedbacks and forcings: a comparison of perturbed physics and multi-model ensembles, Clim. Dynam., 36, 1737-1766, doi:10.1007/s00382-010-0808-0, 2011.

Debernard, J. B. and Roed, L. P.: Future wind, wave and storm surge climate in the Northern Seas: a revisit, Tellus A, 60, 427-438, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0870.2008.00312.x, 2008. [OpenAIRE]

de Winter, R. C., Sterl, A., and Ruessink, B. G.: Wind extremes in the North Sea Basin under climate change: An ensemble study of 12 CMIP5 GCMs, J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos., 118, 1601-1612, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50147, 2013. [OpenAIRE]

Flather, R. A., Smith, J. A., Richards, J. D., Bell, C., and Blackman, D. L.: Direct estimates of extreme storm surge elevations from a 40 yr numerical model simulations and from observations, The Global Atmos. Ocean Syst., 6, 165-176, 1998.

Gaslikova, L., Grabemann, I., and Groll, N.: Changes in North Sea storm surge conditions for four transient future climate realizations, Nat. Hazards, 66, 1501-1518, doi:10.1007/s11069-012- 0279-1, 2013. [OpenAIRE]

Giesen, R. H. and Oerlemans, J.: Climate-model induced differences in the 21st century global and regional glacier contributions to sea-level rise, Clim. Dynam., 41, 1-18, 2013.

Funded by
Ice2sea - estimating the future contribution of continental ice to sea-level rise
  • Funder: European Commission (EC)
  • Project Code: 226375
  • Funding stream: FP7 | SP1 | ENV
Related to Research communities
European Marine Science Marine Environmental Science : Estimating the future contribution of continental ice to sea-level rise
Download from