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Variations in the Difference between Mean Sea Level measured either side of Cape Hatteras and Their Relation to the North Atlantic Oscillation

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Miguel Morales Maqueda



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


We consider the extent to which the difference in mean sea level (MSL) measured on the North American Atlantic coast either side of Cape Hatteras varies as a consequence of dynamical changes in the ocean caused by fluctuations in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). From analysis of tide gauge data, we know that changes in MSL-difference and NAO index are correlated on decadal to century timescales enabling a scale factor of MSL-difference change per unit change in NAO index to be estimated. Changes in trend in the NAO index have been small during the past few centuries (when measured using windows of order 60–120 years). Therefore, if the same scale factor applies through this period of time, the corresponding changes in trend in MSL-difference for the past few centuries should also have been small. It is suggested thereby that the sea level records for recent centuries obtained from salt marshes (adjusted for long-term vertical land movements) should have essentially the same NAO-driven trends south and north of Cape Hatteras, only differing due to contributions from other processes such as changes in the Meridional Overturning Circulation or ‘geophysical fingerprints’. The salt marsh data evidently support this interpretation within their uncertainties for the past few centuries, and perhaps even for the past millennium. Recommendations are made on how greater insight might be obtained by acquiring more measurements and by improved modelling of the sea level response to wind along the shelf.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Woodworth PL, Morales Maqueda MA, Gehrels WR, Roussenov VM, Williams RG, Hughes CW

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Climate Dynamics

Year: 2017

Volume: 49

Issue: 7-8

Pages: 2451-2469

Print publication date: 01/10/2017

Online publication date: 26/11/2016

Acceptance date: 19/11/2016

Date deposited: 16/01/2017

ISSN (print): 0930-7575

ISSN (electronic): 1432-0894

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00382-016-3464-1


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