Climate Model Uncertainty and Trend Detection in Regional Sea Level Projections: A Review

Mark Carson, Kewei Lyu, Kristin Richter, Mélanie Becker, Catia M. Domingues, Weiqing Han, Laure Zanna

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Projections of future sterodynamic sea level change from global climate models are associated with different sources of uncertainty. From a scientific, societal and policy-making perspective, it is relevant to both understand and reduce uncertainty in projections of climate change. Here, we review recent findings which describe, and shed light on, climate model uncertainty focusing particularly on two types of model uncertainty that contribute to the currently large spread in dynamical sea level patterns (i.e., regional sea level relative to the global mean). These uncertainties are: (1) intermodel uncertainty due to differences in models’ responses in a warming climate and (2) internal model variability due to an individual model’s own climate variability. On timescales longer than about 50 years from now, anthropogenic sterodynamic (dynamic plus global mean) sea level trends from middle- and high-end forcing scenarios will be larger than internal model variability. By 2100, these anthropogenic trends will also be larger than intermodel uncertainty when global mean thermosteric sea level rise and/or melting contributions from land ice are considered along with dynamic sea level changes. Furthermore, we discuss projections of future coastal sea level from the perspective of global climate models as well as from downscaled efforts based on regional climate models. Much knowledge and understanding has been achieved in the last decade from intermodel experiments and studies of sea level process-based model; here, the prospects for improving coastal sea level and reducing sea level uncertainty are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1631-1653
Number of pages23
JournalSurveys in Geophysics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Climate model
  • Climate projections
  • Regional sea level
  • Sea level
  • Time of emergence
  • Trend detection
  • Trends
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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