The Transient Sea Level Response to External Forcing in CMIP6 Models

Aslak Grinsted, Jonathan Bamber*, Rory Bingham, Sammie Buzzard, Isabel Nias, Kelvin Ng, Jennifer Weeks

*Corresponding author for this work

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Earth is warming and sea levels are rising as land-based ice is lost to melt, and oceans expand due to accumulation of heat. The pace of ice loss and steric expansion is linked to the intensity of warming. How much faster sea level will rise as climate warms is, however, highly uncertain and difficult to model. Here, we quantify the transient sea level sensitivity of the sea level budget in both models and observations. Models show little change in sensitivity to warming between the first and second half of the twenty-first century for most contributors. The exception is glaciers and ice caps (GIC) that have a greater sensitivity pre-2050 (2.8 ± 0.4 mm/yr/K) compared to later (0.7 ± 0.1 mm/yr/K). We attribute this change to the short response time of glaciers and their changing area over time. Model sensitivities of steric expansion (1.5 ± 0.2 mm/yr/K), and Greenland Ice Sheet mass loss (0.8 ± 0.2 mm/yr/K) are greater than, but still compatible with, corresponding estimates from historical data (1.4 ± 0.5 and 0.4 ± 0.2 mm/yr/K). Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) models tends to show lower rates of sea level rise (SLR) with warming (−0.0 ± 0.3 mm/yr/K) in contrast to historical estimates (0.4 ± 0.2 mm/yr/K). This apparent low bias in AIS sensitivity is only partly able to account for a similar low bias identified in the sensitivity of global mean sea level excluding GIC (3.1 ± 0.4 vs. 2.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr/K). The balance temperature, where SLR is zero, lies close to the pre-industrial value, implying that SLR can only be mitigated by substantial global cooling.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022EF002696
Number of pages15
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number10
Early online date8 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes

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