Fingerprinting Approach to close Regional Sea Level Budgets using ESA-CCI (FACTORS)

Sea level rise (SLR) is one of the greatest global socio-economic challenges of the 21st Century, with a 2m rise in sea level rise threatening to displace 600 million people worldwide from coastal regions and cities. Whilst global mean sea level is an important climate variable for determining the state and response of the Earth system to climate change, it is less informative for local planning and adaptation strategies. This is due to large spatial variations in local rates of sea level change. A major driver of these variations is the contemporary contribution of ice sheets, glaciers and terrestrial water storage, due to the impact their mass changes have on the Earth’s gravitational field, rotation and solid-Earth response. For decades the theoretical formulation has existed for us to calculate regional sea level variability caused by spatiotemporal patterns of land ice and terrestrial water storage mass changes, known as “Sea Level Fingerprints” (SLFs). With land ice projected to be an increasingly large contributor to sea level rise over the coming century, understanding the spatiotemporal evolution of these fingerprints over the satellite observation era is critical for informing future projections.

The FACTORS project will utilise essential climate variable’s (ECVs) across multiple CCI projects to improve understanding of this key teleconnection. Products from the Antarctica, Greenland, Glaciers and Lakes CCI will provide high resolution terrestrial mass change parameterizations for solving the sea level equation and calculation of SLF’s. The diverse range of observations included in these initiatives (e.g., altimetry and gravimetry) will enable the computation of a multi-decadal SLF data product, key for understanding the long term regional SLR response to climate change.

The SLFs will then be combined with ocean altimetry data from the Sea Level CCI in order to evaluate our ability to close the sea level budget at a regional scale, building on the global budget closure provided by the ESA CCI Sea Level Budget Closure initiative. Achieving this would provide increased confidence in the capability of our monitoring systems and ECV products, in addition to improving our understanding of sea level rise in coastal regions and future projections.

Host Institution: University of Bristol

Research Fellow: Stephen Chuter