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Regional sea level change and variability in the Caribbean sea since 1950

H. Palanisamy1 / M. Becker1 / B. Meyssignac1 / O. Henry1 / A. Cazenave1

LEGOS/OMP, Toulouse, France1

UMR 228 ESPACE-DEV/UAG, Cayenne, French Guiana2

This content is open access.

Citation Information: Journal of Geodetic Science. Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 125–133, ISSN (Online) 2081-9943, ISSN (Print) 2081-9919, DOI: 10.2478/v10156-011-0029-4, May 2012

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Published Online:

Regional sea level change and variability in the Caribbean sea since 1950

We investigate the regional variability in sea level in the Caribbean Sea region over the past 60 years (1950-2009) using an Empirical Orthogonal Function (EOF)-based 2-dimensional past sea level reconstruction (a mean of 3 reconstructions based on few long tide gauge records and different sea level grids from satellite altimetry and ocean circulation models) and satellite altimetry data for the last two decades. We find that over the past 60 years, the mean rate of sea level rise in the region was similar to the global mean rise (~1.8 mm/yr). The interannual mean sea level of the placeCaribbean region appears highly correlated with El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) indices. Interpolation of the sea level reconstruction grid at different sites, in particular at the Caribbean Islands where tide gauge records are either very short or inexistent, shows that locally, the sea level trend is on the order of 2 mm/yr, i.e. only slightly larger than the mean trend over the region. Besides, correlation with ENSO is in general good, especially since the mid-1980s. We also find a significant correlation between the interannual variability in sea level and hurricane activity, especially over the past decade during which hurricane intensity and sea level interannual variability have both increased.

Keywords: Caribbean Sea; sea level variability; 2-D past sea level reconstruction; satellite altimetry; tide gauge; ENSO; hurricane

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