A3: Climate Sensitivity and Sea Level

Sea level variability and change are topics of vital concern to coastal populations, and require a variety of interdisciplinary research efforts. Sea level evolves in response to changes in the Earth’s heat budget and the hydrological cycle, including the addition of freshwater from melting land ice. We investigate the causes and consequences of global and regional changes in sea level on time scales from decades to centuries, and determine the impact of climate sensitivity on sea level changes and the additional effects of the solid earth and ice processes.


Sea level research is interdisciplinary and involves expertise from natural and social science. It focuses on causes of global to regional sea level changes, and their consequences and implications.

Sea surface height change: 1986-2100 in meters
Coastal sea level rise in 2100

1. Mechanisms and sources of regional sea level change and variability

We investigate mechanisms and sources of regional sea level change and variability as functions of space and time scales, and its relation to climate sensitivity, oceanic and atmospheric heat transports, and ocean heat uptake.

2. Natural and anthropogenic modes of sea level variability and change

We separate natural and anthropogenic modes of sea level variability and change, using ocean reconstructions and climate models.

3. Influence of the cryosphere on the ocean circulation and associated sea level changes

We investigate the influence of freshwater entering from the cryosphere on the ocean circulation and associated sea level changes.

4. The North and Baltic Sea, small islands and vulnerable regions

We study regional sea level changes and consequences in the North Sea and the Baltic in terms of coastal protection, socioeconomic and security impacts.

Latest A3 Publications

  • Han, W., Stammer, D., Meehl, G., Hu, A., Sienz, F., & Zhang, L. (2018). Multi-decadal trend and decadal variability of the regional sea level over the Indian Ocean since the 1960s: Roles of climate modes and external forcing. Climate, 6: 51. doi:10.3390/cli6020051.
  • Stammer, D., Köhl, A., Vlasenko, A., Matei, I., Lunkeit, F., & Schubert, S. (2018). A Pilot Climate Sensitivity Study using the CEN Coupled Adjoint Model. Journal of Climate, 2031-2056. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0183.1.
  • Evadzi, P. I. K., Scheffran, J., Zorita, E., & Hünicke, B. (2018). Awareness of sea-level response under climate change on the coast of Ghana. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 22(1), 183-197. doi:10.1007/s11852-017-0569-6.
  • Sadikni, R., Schade, N. H., Jahnke-Bornemann, A., Hinrichs, I., Stammer, D., Dümenil Gates, L., & Tinz, B. (2018). The KLIWAS North Sea Climatology. Part II: Assessment against Global Reanalyses. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 35(1), 127-145. doi:10.1175/JTECH-D-17-0045.1.
  • Lyu, G., Köhl, A., Matei, I., & Stammer, D. (2018). Adjoint-based climate model tuning: application to the Planet Simulator. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, 10, early view, available online. doi:10.1002/2017MS001194.