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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Rapidity of sea-level and climate change

Currently Active: 

The big science question: One of the key questions of societal relevance is how sea-level has behaved in the past, how fast sea-level has risen in the past, and how fast it might change in the future, so we can adequately prepare our flood defenses.

Research details

Research in Southampton has shown that

  1. potential rates of sea-level rise, as reconstructed from the past, can approach around 2±0.5 meters per century, much faster than current plans for flood defenses envisage;
  2. we can establish a relationship between changes in climate and ice-volume/sea-level;
  3. the nature of long-term (‘equilibrium') climate sensitivity which might help to predict future warming in response to greenhouse gas emissions.

Results have provided evidence to determine a worst-case impact scenario in international coastal/environmental protection plans (some of which have progressed to implementation). Results have also found extensive use in public engagement with science to foster better understanding of the natural variability of climate and its key sensitivities. Impacts concern

  • government policy advice, and
  • societal awareness and engagement.

Specific impacts:

  • We demonstrate the potential rapidity of sea-level rise above the presnet (2±0.5 meters per century)
  • We determine the relationship between changes in climate and ice-volume/ sea-level
  • We investigate the nature of long term ‘equilibrium') climate sensitivity that relates changes in temperature to forcing (e.g, carbon dioxide)

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Related research groups

Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate
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