Member Highlight: Sea-Level Report Cards: 2019 Data Adds To Trend In Acceleration

2020-02-10T15:32:20+00:00 February 6, 2020|

Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Water levels at 25 of 32 stations rose at higher rate than in 2018

(From Virginia Institute of Marine Science/ By David Malmquist) — The annual update of their sea level “report cards” by researchers at William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science adds evidence of an accelerating rate of sea-level rise at nearly all tidal stations along the U.S. coastline.

The team’s web-based report cards project sea level to the year 2050 based on an ongoing analysis of tide-gauge records for 32 localities along the U.S. coast from Maine to Alaska. The analysis now includes 51 years of water-level observations, from January 1969 through December 2019. The interactive charts are available online at

The project’s founder, VIMS Emeritus Professor John Boon, says, “The key message from the 2019 report cards is a clear trend toward acceleration in rates of sea-level rise at 25 of our 32 tide-gauge stations. Acceleration can be a game changer in terms of impacts and planning, so we really need to pay heed to these patterns.”

VIMS marine scientist Molly Mitchell says, “Seeing acceleration at so many of our stations suggests that — when we look at the multiple sea-level scenarios that NOAA puts out based on global models — we may be moving towards the higher projections.” Mitchell has partnered with Boon to generate the last two annual report cards.

“We have increasing evidence from the tide-gauge records that these higher sea-level curves need to be seriously considered in resilience-planning efforts,” adds Mitchell.

In 2019, rates of sea-level rise accelerated at all 21 of the report-card stations along the U.S. East and Gulf coasts, and at seven of the eight monitored stations along the U.S. West Coast excluding Alaska. All four stations monitored in Alaska show relative sea level falling at increasingly rapid rates (due to coastal mountain-building). Previous work by Boon, Mitchell and VIMS colleague Derek Loftis suggests the current acceleration in rates of sea-level rise began around 2013 or 2014, likely associated with ocean dynamics and ice-sheet loss.

“Although sea level has been rising very slowly along the West Coast,” says Mitchell, “models have been predicting that it will start to rise faster. The report cards from the past three years support this idea.” Scientists suggest…

Read the full article here: