Quo Vadis Sea Level – Tropical Pacific Sea Levels DROPPED From 1958 – 2007, New Study Shows

Tuvalu is saved! What follows is a press release from the Leibniz Institute for Marine Science (IFM-GEOMAR) on a new paper appearing in the GRL, which shows sea level changes are far more complex than first thought. It’s back to the drawing board for climate and sea level modellers. (Hat-tip Science Skeptical)

Quo Vadis Sea Level? New Study Shows Ocean Currents Lead To Strong Regional Fluctuations
Dr. Andreas Villwock

Scientists of the Leibniz Institute for Marine Science (IFM-GEOMAR) have now shown that there are large regional variations when it comes to sea level change. The causes are due to changes in ocean currents, which lead to varying sea levels, especially in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Chart above: Sea level fluctuations caused by wind and ocean currents (relative to mean global sea level rise) for the period 1958-2007 (in cm). The model simulation shows regions with sunken sea level (blue) in the tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean. Graphic from IFM-GEOMAR.

Why has the sea level in some regions of the tropical Indian Ocean and Pacific risen strongly over the last 15 years, while in the decades before the sea levels at these locations dropped? The ocean scientists from Kiel are uncovering why by using computer simulations. A paper now appearing in the Geophysical Research Letters shows that fluctuations in ocean currents, caused by trade winds in the tropical Pacific, play an important role.

The impact of wind and ocean currents are prevalent in the tropical Pacific especially in the wake of the El Niño phenomena. “The associated swashing back and forth of the warm surface water leads to a continuous rise and drop in sea level of up to 20 cm within just a few years“, explains oceanographer Franziska Schwarzkopf of the Leibniz Institute for Marine Science (IFM-GEOMAR) and author of the study.

While these short term fluctuations are well documented by modern satellite measurements, little was known about the long-term pattern of changes. “Our computer simulations which use current models show that regional water levels also over time periods of several decades are affected by wind changes and ocean currents“, says Professor Claus Böning, director of Kiel Ocean-Modelling and co-author of the study. A surprising finding from the scientists in Kiel:

In the middle of the last 50 years, some areas in the tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean experienced a drop in sea levels, contrary to the global trend.”

These new results on sea level rise of the last decades mean an additional challenge for climate modeling. “Whether a group of islands has to reckon with a greater increase in sea level with respect to the average, or can reckon with a temporary drop over the next decades depends decisively on the development of the wind systems and ocean currents“, says Böning. “Future research programs will put increasing focus on the regional fluctuations in the oceans.“

The paper: Schwarzkopf, F.U. and C.W. Böning, 2011: Contribution of Pacific wind stress to multi-decadal variations in upper-ocean heat content and sea level in the tropical south Indian Ocean. Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L12602, doi: 10.1029/2011GL047651.

Prof. Dr. Claus Böning, Tel: (+49) 431 600-4003, cboening@ifm-geomar.de
Dr. Andreas Villwock (public relations), Tel: (+49) 431 600-2802, avillwock@ifm-geomar.de

Other reading (h/t: Krishna Gans): Meteorologically driven trends and worldclimatereport.

14 responses to “Quo Vadis Sea Level – Tropical Pacific Sea Levels DROPPED From 1958 – 2007, New Study Shows”

  1. Rudolf Kipp

    Hi Pierre,

    The tide gauge of Tuvalu from 1977 to 2001 tells exactly the same story. A high variability, but no increase.


    BTW, the GoogleEarth plugin showing all PSMSL stations and data can be extremely helpful:


  2. DirkH

    The IPCC will have to look carefully to find the right reference tide gauge for the next report. But I’m confident their Munich Re researchers will find a suitable one in their database.

  3. DirkH

    For the first time in 10 years, the BBC manages to publish an article about polar ice extent that doesn’t contain the phrases “global warming” or “climate change”.


    That can only mean that the AGW kapos at the BBC have gone into hiding. They wouldn’t have allowed this a year ago.

    1. Jimbo

      It came very close though. 😉

      “The extent of Arctic sea-ice has become a major issue in recent years, with summer melting appearing to outstrip what many climate models had predicted.”

      1. DirkH

        They say “appearing to outstrip” and in the same paragraph say that it’s the winds that make it appear so. What Anthony Watts said all the time. A step forward for the BBC, but they’re still 2 years behind. One can hope.

  4. DirkH
  5. Deadman

    “Whither goest thou seas”?
    “Quo vaditis, seas”, if second person, or “quo vadunt seas”, if third; either way, plural verb for plural seas.

    1. roger

      OMG! Flashback to 1956 and O level Latin. What a fright to give me!

      1. Bernd Felsche

        “As the science deepens, the uncertainty grows.”

        Indeed. If it doesn’t, you’re not doing science.

        1. Bernd Felsche

          OOPS! That response belongs to Pierre’s first comment.

          As for Latin, the UNHCR should be saying something about forcing the public to learn a zombie language. (Dead but still walking)

  6. Edward

    Why do the warmists have a fetish for sea level fluctuations, or rises?

    A few milimetres here and there……… is going to prove Jack ***t one way or another and anyway 1100 years ago, Tuvalu was just another uninhabited island atoll in the big blue briny.

    I rest easy, like Al Gore, he invests in beach front property – he knows a thing or two…… .

    1. Josh

      There is a great amount of dfirefence between being a Climate Change Skeptic and being an advocate of the theory that climate change is the result of Man’s activities. Nowhere in this article does that critical dfirefence get discussed. From the tenor of this article, one would have to come to the conclusion that President Klaus does not believe that the weather changes from day to day. Discuss the relevant points. The idea that climate change is bad and un-natural and can be changed by spending trillions of [input your monetory measure here], is absurd. This is a natural cycle which can be traced to various natural occurances such as sunspot activity and volcanoes. The same changes are visible on other planets in the Solar System. Does our greenhouse gas reach Venus?

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this. More information at our Data Privacy Policy