Members of the NASA Sea Level Change Team (N-SLCT) were in New York City this July where more than 300 scientists from 42 countries gathered at Columbia University for a week long Regional Sea Level Changes and Coastal Impacts Conference. The international conference was organized by the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), Climate and Ocean – Variability, Predictability, and Change (CLIVAR), and the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and was co-sponsored by NASA.
Regional sea level change is more variable, over both space and time, than global sea level change and can diverge by up to 20 centimeters (7 inches) or more from the global mean. Additionally, making regional projections about future sea level differs from making global mean sea level projections. This is due to the fact that different processes contribute to sea level change in coastal regions. Global sea level rise is caused by thermal expansion of warmer water plus contributions from ice sheets and glaciers. Regional sea level change, especially along coastlines, is influenced by additional factors, including vertical land movements, waves and tides, and winds and storms. So in order to estimate sea level inundation and flood risk, scientists have to understand all the factors that contribute to extreme water levels such as local sea level rise, land subsidence, tides, waves and storm surge.
The N-SLCT hopes to leverage satellite observations as much as possible to try to better understand future regional sea level change. This will help decision makers, coastal managers and stakeholders better adapt and prepare for the impacts of sea level rise.