Use of local tidal records to identify relative sea level change: accuracy and error for decision makers

V.A. Powell (Lead / Corresponding author), D.J. McGlashan, R.W. Duck

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    2 Citations (Scopus)


    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considers eustatic sea level rise to be a major impact driven by climate change. Relative sea level change, whether positive or negative, will affect industries, communities and ecology along the world’s coastlines and estuaries. Estimates of global eustatic sea level rise between 1961 and 2003 are 1.8?±?0.5 mm a-1, reflecting results from validated global tide gauge records. Over the last two decades, several studies have used automatic tide gauge records with at least 80 years of data to generate global prediction models. The IPCC recognises that global change is not uniform, therefore local policy for flood management and coastal protection should rely on local change models that incorporate glacio-isostatic adjustment (GIA) and apply accurate data correction techniques. Some of the longest tidal records are held within the Northern Hemisphere, e.g. Cascais, Amsterdam, Aberdeen, Sheerness and Newlyn. The UK provides several important case studies highlighting changes in relative sea level between the north and the south, primarily due to variations in GIA rates of land uplift and subsidence. Tide gauge records are held by a variety of governmental, non-governmental and private organisations. However, each source may typically compile data in different ways, relying on diverse equipment and recording techniques, often with variations in frequency, length, quality and corrections applied. Even within a single organisation there may be differences in dataset quality. This paper examines some of the key sources of error when working with historical tidal datasets in local geographic areas and aims to identify the limitations of locally derived data thereby assisting in the determination of relative sea level trends that are of widespread value to infrastructure and policy makers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)597-607
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Coastal Conservation
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    • Relative sea level
    • GIA
    • Tide gauges


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