Recent assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) imply that global mean sea level is unlikely to rise more than about 1.1 m within this century but will increase further beyond 2100. Even within the most intensive future anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission scenarios, higher levels are assessed to be unlikely. However, some studies conclude that considerably greater sea level rise could be realized, and a number of experts assign a substantially higher likelihood of such a future. To understand this discrepancy, it would be useful to have scenario-independent metrics that can be compared between different approaches. The concept of a transient climate sensitivity has proven to be useful to compare the global mean temperature response of climate models to specific radiative forcing scenarios. Here, theyintroduce a similar metric for sea level response. By analyzing the mean rate of change in sea level (not sea level itself), they identify a nearly linear relationship with global mean surface temperature (and therefore accumulated carbon dioxide emissions) both in model projections and in observations on a century scale. This motivates them to define the “transient sea level sensitivity” as the increase in the sea level rate associated with a given warming in units of meters per century per kelvin. They find that future projections estimated on climate model responses fall below extrapolation based on recent observational records. This comparison suggests that the likely upper level of sea level projections in recent IPCC reports would be too low.

Sea level caption

The complete article "The transient sensitivity of sea level rise" from Aslak Grinsted  and Jens Christensen in Ocean Science  is available at