Using a global model of continental water balance, forced by interannual variations in precipitation and near-surface atmospheric temperature for the period 1981-1998, we estimate the sea-level changes associated with climate-driven changes in storage of water as snowpack, soil water, and ground water; storage in ice sheets and large lakes is not considered. The 1981-1998 trend is estimated to be 0.12 mm/yr, and substantial interannual fluctuations are inferred; for 1993-1998, the trend is 0.25 mm/yr. At the decadal time scale, the terrestrial contribution to eustatic (i.e., induced by mass exchange) sea-level rise is significantly smaller than the estimated steric (i.e., induced by density changes) trend for the same period, but is not negligibly small. In the model the sea-level rise is driven mainly by a downtrend in continental precipitation during the study period, which we believe was generated by natural variability in the climate system.
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Contribution of climate-driven change in continental water storage to recent sea-level rise
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America