Expectations for the Evolution of Global Mean Sea Level During the 2014-2015 El Niño Event

Robert Steven Nerem (University of Colorado, United States)


C. Boening (, ); B. Hamlington (Old Dominion University, USA); J. Fasullo (, ); F. Landerer (, ); M. Merrifield (University of Hawaii, USA); G. Mitchum (, ); J. Willis (, )

Event: 2014 Ocean Surface Topography Science Team Meeting

Session: Science Results from Satellite Altimetry: Regional and basin-scale processes and sea level rise

Presentation type: Type Poster

Global mean sea level change has been shown to have large interannual variability in response to El Niño events [Nerem et al., 1999; 2010] and La Niña events [Boening et al., 2012; Fasullo et al., 2014], and even decadal changes in response to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) [Hamlington et al., 2013]. These variations are mainly thought to be driven by changes in land/ocean precipitation patterns, with more water being stored on the land during La Niña events, and more water being stored in the oceans during El Niño events. Understanding these events is important so that they can be placed in the proper context with anthropogenic sea level change. However, the sea level response to individual ENSO events is still not well understood and depends on a variety of factors. The GRACE mission (launched in 2002) allowed a very detailed analysis and understanding of the 2011 La Niña event, but this was not possible for the 1997-98 El Niño event. Therefore, the possibility of a 2014-2015 El Niño event is a great opportunity for science given that it can currently be observed by both Jason-2 (and other altimeter missions) as well as GRACE. This presentation will review our understanding of changes in global mean sea level related to ENSO events, including both the observational as well as the modeling evidence. This evidence will be used to forecast how we might expect sea level to evolve in 2015 in response to an El Niño.
Robert Steven Nerem
University of Colorado
United States