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African Journal of Marine Science

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Sea level changes at Ascension Island in the last half century

PL Woodworth, PR Foden, DS Jones, J Pugh, SJ Holgate, A Hibbert, DL Blackman, CR Bellingham, VM Roussenov, RG Williams

Abstract


An exercise in ‘data archaeology’ at Ascension Island has provided an estimate of sea level change between 1955 and 2001.5 (the mid-point of a recent dataset spanning 1993–2009). That average trend of 0.93 mm y–1 (SE 0.69) compares to a larger rate during 1993–2009 itself of 2.55 (SE 0.13) and 2.07 (SE 0.30) mm y–1 from tide gauge and altimeter data respectively, suggesting a recent acceleration in sea level rise. An ocean model and steric height datasets have been used for comparison to the measurements, with the conclusion that the acceleration was probably at least partly due  to a steric height increase. This exercise is based on only one month of historical tide gauge data and is admittedly on the useful limit for long-term sea level studies. In addition, it is unfortunate that the tide gauge benchmark installed in 1955 has disappeared, even if one can estimate its height relative to modern marks. Nevertheless, the study does provide information of interest to climate studies, enables limits to be inferred on the real changes, and provides background information for other coastal studies. Most importantly, it is intended as a demonstration of the value of similar exercises where short historical records exist.

Keywords: satellite altimetry, tide gauges, vertical land movements

African Journal of Marine Science 2012, 34(3): 443–452



http://dx.doi.org/10.2989/1814232X.2012.689623
AJOL African Journals Online