CliSAP successfully finished in 2018. Climate research continues in the Cluster of Excellence "CLICCS".

Sea Level: Attaining Deeper Insights into Regional Changes


Last week some 50 international experts joined in the workshop “High-End Scenarios of Regional Sea Level Changes and Their Uncertainties” at the University of Hamburg’s Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN). The workshop, which was jointly organized by the CEN, the Cluster of Excellence CLISAP, the European Climate Research Alliance (ECRA) and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), primarily focused on the question of how regional changes in the sea level can be better understood and predicted.

Only a few centimeters above sea level: Malé, capital city of the Maldives. Image: Shahee Ilyas (License: GFDL)

Since the mid-19th century, the sea level has risen by roughly 20 centimeters – on global average; regional changes can be significantly higher or lower. Thanks to greenhouse gases, the global mean sea level will continue to rise by the end of the century: by an additional meter or more, depending on the emissions scenario. In the future, too, the level of change will vary from area to area, making coastal region-specific prognoses essential to forming concrete response plans.

The focus of the workshop was on the upper extreme values from these regional forecasts. Calculating them in climate models is especially challenging – for example, because of interactions between local and global phenomena, or because not all processes coincide at the same time. The participants discussed which maximum values for the rise in sea level are to be expected and which processes aren’t yet sufficiently reflected in today’s climate models; the quality of observational data was a further topic. “Another important task is to develop computational experiments with the help of which climate models can simulate regional sea level changes. Thanks to the workshop, we’ve made good progress in this area,” explains Prof. Detlef Stammer, Co-Chair of CliSAP and head of the WCRP Grand Challenge “Sea Level Rise and Regional Impacts.”

A further part of the workshop was a talk by Prof. Antonio J. Busalacchi, Chair of the WCRP’s Joint Scientific Committee. During the talk, which was part of the KlimaCampus Colloquium, Prof. Busalacchi discussed the evolution and duties of the WCRP and presented further key challenges for climate research beyond regional sea level changes. The results of the workshop will be compiled into a white paper, which is intended to provide a basis for the continuing development of the WCRP’s research program.