University Of Tasmania

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Time of emergence for regional sea-level change

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 08:58 authored by Lyu, K, Zhang, X, Church, JA, Slangen, ABA, Hu, J
Determining the time when the climate change signal from increasing greenhouse gases exceeds and thus emerges from natural climate variability (referred to as the time of emergence, ToE) is an important climate change issue. Previous ToE studies were mainly focused on atmospheric variables. Here, based on three regional sea-level projection products available to 2100, which have increasing complexity in terms of included processes, we estimate the ToE for sea-level changes relative to the reference period 1986-2005. The dynamic sea level derived from ocean density and circulation changes alone leads to emergence over only limited regions. By adding the global-ocean thermal expansion effect, 50% of the ocean area will show emergence with rising sea level by the early-to-middle 2040s. Including additional contributions from land ice mass loss, land water storage change and glacial isostatic adjustment generally enhances the signal of regional sea-level rise (except in some regions with decreasing total sea levels), which leads to emergence over more than 50% of the ocean area by 2020. The ToE for total sea level is substantially earlier than that for surface air temperature and exhibits little dependence on the emission scenarios, which means that our society will face detectable sea-level change and its potential impacts earlier than surface air warming.


Publication title

Nature Climate Change










School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


Nature Publishing Group

Place of publication

United States

Rights statement

© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Understanding climate change not elsewhere classified