Will the wind impact future sea level change?


Nathaelle Bouttes1,Jonathan Gregory1,2,Till Kuhlbrodt1 and Tatsuo Suzuki3

1NCAS-Climate, University of Reading,2Met Office Hadley Centre, 3JAMSTEC, Japan

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Nathaelle Bouttes is a postdoctoral researcher in NCAS-Climate’s Department of Meteorology. She is working on the role of the ocean in climate change.

What are the new findings?

Sea level is currently rising, and will continue to do so in the future. One of the main reasons is the warming of oceans, because the water expands when it warms. The magnitude of this sea level rise can vary locally, with some places experiencing twice the sea level rise of others. The wind plays a role by moving warm water from one place to another. We have found that future changes in the wind will have a strong effect on sea level in the Southern Ocean. We also demonstrate that in this region, the models disagree on the local magnitude of the sea level change mainly because they simulate different future changes in wind.

Why are these findings important?

Local sea level is important for people who live close to the coastal area, which represents the majority of the world population. Knowing how sea level will evolve is crucial in assessing the impact of climate change. This requires reliable model predictions. By finding the reasons for the discrepancies between models, we are helping to improve these models and making predictions more reliable.

How did we discover this?

We have used the results of simulations run by climate modellers all over the world in the CMIP5 project. They simulate the change of climate when CO2 is increased in the atmosphere. We have used the changes in wind simulated by each of these models to evaluate its effect alone on sea level, without all the other effects of CO2 increase happening as well, such as changes in temperature and precipitation.



Above: Geographical distribution of the mean sea level change (cm) for the CMIP5 models at the end of a 100 year simulation where CO2 has been increased by 1% each year.

 Find out more:

  • see Nathaelle Bouttes' webpage
  • Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Take a look at the Journal article

Bouttes, N.J. M. GregoryT. Kuhlbrodt, and T. Suzuki (2012), The effect of windstress change on future sea level change in the Southern OceanGeophys. Res. Lett.39, L23602 


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This research was funded by the European Research Council under the SEACHANGE project.