Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans








Although much of the focus on future sea level rise concerns the long-term trend associated with anthropogenic warming, on shorter time scales, internal climate variability can contribute significantly to regional sea level. Such sea level variability should be taken into consideration when planning efforts to mitigate the effects of future sea level change. In this study, we quantify the contribution to regional sea level of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Through cyclostationary empirical orthogonal function analysis (CSEOF) of the long reconstructed sea level data set and of a set of U.S. tide gauges, two global modes dominated by Pacific Ocean variability are identified and related to ENSO and, by extension, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. By estimating the combined contribution of these two modes to regional sea level, we find that ENSO can contribute significantly on short time scales, with contributions of up to 20 cm along the west coast of the U.S. The CSEOF decomposition of the long tide gauge records around the U.S. highlights the influence of ENSO on the U.S. east coast. Tandem analyses of both the reconstructed and tide gauge records also examine the utility of the sea level reconstructions for near-coast studies.

Original Publication Citation

Hamlington, B.D., Leben, R.R., Kim, K.Y., Nerem, R.S., Atkinson, L.P., & Thompson, P.R. (2015). The effect of the El Niño-southern oscillation on U.S. Regional and coastal sea level. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, 120(6), 3970-3986. doi: 10.1002/2014JC010602