Altimeter-era emergence of the patterns of forced sea-level rise in climate models and implications for the future
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Altimeter-era emergence of the patterns of forced sea-level rise in climate models and implications for the future

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  • Journal Title:
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    The satellite altimeter record has provided an unprecedented database for understanding sea-level rise and has recently reached a major milestone at 25 years in length. A challenge now exists in understanding its broader significance and its consequences for sea-level rise in the coming decades and beyond. A key question is whether the pattern of altimeter-era change is representative of longer-term trends driven by anthropogenic forcing. In this work, two multimember climate ensembles, the Community Earth System Model (CESM) and the Earth System Model Version 2M (ESM2M), are used to estimate patterns of forced change [also known as the forced response (FR)] and their magnitudes relative to internal variability. It is found that the spatial patterns of 1993–2018 trends in the ensembles correlate significantly with the contemporaneous FRs (0.55 ± 0.10 in the CESM and 0.61 ± 0.09 in the ESM2M) and the 1950–2100 FRs (0.43 ± 0.10 in the CESM and 0.51 ± 0.11 in the ESM2M). Unforced runs for each model show such correlations to be extremely unlikely to have arisen by chance, indicating an emergence of both the altimeter-era and long-term FRs and suggesting a similar emergence in nature. Projected patterns of the FR over the coming decades resemble those simulated during the altimeter era, suggesting a continuation of the forced pattern of change in nature in the coming decades. Notably, elevated rates of rise are projected to continue in regions that are susceptible to tropical cyclones, exacerbating associated impacts in a warming climate.
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    PNAS December 18, 2018 115 (51) 12944-12949
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