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Terrestrial waters and sea level variations on interannual time scale

By W. Llovel, M. Becker, A. Cazenave, S. Jevrejeva, R. Alkama, B. Decharme, H. Douville, M. Ablain and B. Beckley


On decadal to multidecadal time scales, thermal expansion of sea waters and land ice loss are the main contributors to sea level variations. However, modification of the terrestrial water cycle due to climate variability and direct anthropogenic forcing may also affect sea level. For the past decades, variations in land water storage and corresponding effects on sea level cannot be directly estimated from observations because these are almost unexistent at global continental scale. However, global hydrological models developed for atmospheric and climatic studies can be used for estimating total water storage. For the recent years (since mid-2002), terrestrial water storage change can be directly estimated from observations of the GRACE space gravimetry mission. In this study, we analyse the interannual variability of total land water storage, and investigate its contribution to mean sea level variability at interannual time scale. We consider three different periods that, each, depend on data availability: (1) GRACE era (2003-2009), (2) 1993-2003 and (3) 1955-1995. For the GRACE era (period 1), change in land water storage is estimated using different GRACE products over the 33 largest river basins worldwide. For periods 2 and 3, we use outputs from the ISBA-TRIP (Interactions between Soil, Biosphere, and Atmosphere Total Runoff Integrating Pathways) global hydrological model. For each time span, we compare change in land water storage (expressed in sea level equivalent) to observed mean sea level, either from satellite altimetry (periods 1 and 2) or tide gauge records (period 3). For each data set and each time span, a trend has been removed as we focus on the interannual variability. We show that whatever the period considered, interannual variability of the mean sea level is essentially explained by interannual fluctuations in land water storage, with the largest contributions arising from tropical river basin

Topics: Marine Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2010.10.008
OAI identifier:

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