Analysis of the regional pattern of sea level change due to ocean dynamics and density changes for 1993-2099 in observations and CMIP5 AOGCMs
Bilbao, R. A. F., Gregory, J. M. and Bouttes, N. (2015) Analysis of the regional pattern of sea level change due to ocean dynamics and density changes for 1993-2099 in observations and CMIP5 AOGCMs. Climate Dynamics, 45 (9). pp. 2647-2666. ISSN 0930-7575
To link to this article DOI: 10.1007/s00382-015-2499-z
Predictions of twenty-first century sea level change show strong regional variation. Regional sea level change observed by satellite altimetry since 1993 is also not spatially homogenous. By comparison with historical and pre-industrial control simulations using the atmosphere–ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) of the CMIP5 project, we conclude that the observed pattern is generally dominated by unforced (internal generated) variability, although some regions, especially in the Southern Ocean, may already show an externally forced response. Simulated unforced variability cannot explain the observed trends in the tropical Pacific, but we suggest that this is due to inadequate simulation of variability by CMIP5 AOGCMs, rather than evidence of anthropogenic change. We apply the method of pattern scaling to projections of sea level change and show that it gives accurate estimates of future local sea level change in response to anthropogenic forcing as simulated by the AOGCMs under RCP scenarios, implying that the pattern will remain stable in future decades. We note, however, that use of a single integration to evaluate the performance of the pattern-scaling method tends to exaggerate its accuracy. We find that ocean volume mean temperature is generally a better predictor than global mean surface temperature of the magnitude of sea level change, and that the pattern is very similar under the different RCPs for a given model. We determine that the forced signal will be detectable above the noise of unforced internal variability within the next decade globally and may already be detectable in the tropical Atlantic.