Related Research Areas
Climate Variability & Change, Water & Energy Cycles

Over the past few years, our research and that of others, based to great extent on data from NASA Earth-observing missions, has led to an increasingly complex view of sea-level variation. Climate-induced melting of global ice complexes increases the volume of water in the ocean while simultaneously inducing changes in the shape and gravity field of the Earth. The oceans also exchange water with the continents through other processes, also inducing shape and gravity changes. In addition, ocean dynamics driven by surface wind stress and heat fluxes induce large spatially and temporally variable ocean signals. Yet, for all our understanding of the underlying processes that affect sea level, we do not yet have an integrative model that adequately predicts sea-level change on relevant time scales (seasonal and longer). Our proposed approach will utilize a large suite of ground, ocean, and space-based data to develop models representing individual components of sea-level change. Before integration, we will investigate these models for internal consistency of their physical basis and implications. We will integrate the consistent models, and attempt to validate the integrated model using independent data sets. We will characterize the validation differences spatially, and in an innovative approach we will attempt to describe the differences in terms of realistic errors in the model components. This proposed project is a follow-on to our ongoing IDS project, "Integration of ocean and Earth dynamics for measurement and prediction of sea-level change" (NNX07AM77G, end date 3 June 2010). The proposed research will be extensively informed and guided by the results of that project. In particular, the proposed integrative aspect of this proposal will have the following properties: (i) Consideration of a wide range of contributions to a spatially and temporally varying sea-level change in the quest to better quantify and interpret global mean signals; (ii) Efforts to integrate a variety of in situ and satellite data sets and models of many physical processes affecting sea level change (e.g., self-attraction and loading, ocean dynamics); and (iii) Close scrutiny of self-consistency among all data sets and models (e.g., freshwater fluxes driving the ocean circulation consistent with inferred ice melting and corresponding loading and self-attraction effects) and associated uncertainties. The proposed research will result in a more self-consistent integrated model for sea-level change and will quantify the errors in the model in terms of the component contributions to sea-level change. This project will address NASA Strategic Goal 3, Subgoal 3A, project goals 3A.4 (Quantify the key reservoirs and fluxes in the global water cycle and improve models of water cycle change...), 3A.5 (Understand the role of oceans, atmosphere, and ice in the climate system and improve predictive capability...), 3A.6 (Characterize and understand...variability of Earth's gravitational [field]) and 3A.7 (Expand and accelerate the realization of societal benefits from Earth system science).

Project PI: James Davis/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Mail Stop 42. Cambridge, MA 02138.

Phone: (617) 496-7640

Fax: (617) 495-7345 



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Started: Sep 29, 2010

Last Activity: Jan 04, 2011


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