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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans








Sea level in the South Atlantic Ocean has only been measured at a small number of tide-gauge locations, which causes considerable uncertainty in 20th-century sea-level trend estimates in this basin. To obtain a better-constrained sea-level trend in the South Atlantic Ocean, this study aims to answer two questions. The first question is: can we combine new observations, vertical land motion estimates, and information on spatial sampling biases to obtain a likely range of 20th-century sea-level rise in the South Atlantic? We combine existing observations with recovered observations from Dakar and a high-resolution sea-level reconstruction based on salt-marsh sediments from the Falkland Islands and find that the rate of sea-level rise in the South Atlantic has likely been between 1.1 and 2.2 mm year−1 (5%–95% confidence intervals), with a central estimate of 1.6 mm year−1. This rate is on the high side, but not statistically different compared to global-mean trends from recent reconstructions. The second question is: are there any physical processes that could explain a large deviation from the global-mean sea-level trend in the South Atlantic? Sterodynamic (changes in ocean dynamics and steric effects) and gravitation, rotation, and deformation effects related to ice mass loss and land water storage have probably led to a 20th-century sea-level trend in the South Atlantic above the global mean. Both observations and physical processes thus suggest that 20th-century sea-level rise in the South Atlantic has been about 0.3 mm year−1 above the rate of global-mean sea-level rise, although even with the additional observations, the uncertainties are still too large to distinguish a statistically significant difference.


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Data Availability

Article states: "The time series from Swan Inlet, the uniform GRD fingerprints from Figure 5, the steric estimates from Figure 7, and the scripts to compute all the results are available from"


The copyright line for this article was changed on 01 JUL 2021 after original online publication from © 2021 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.

Original Publication Citation

Frederikse, T., Adhikari, S., Daley, T. J., Dangendorf, S., Gehrels, R., Landerer, F., Marcos, M., Newton, T. L., Rush, G., Slangen, A. B. A., & Wöppelmann, G. (2021). Constraining 20th‐century sea‐level rise in the South Atlantic Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126(3), 1-16, Article e2020JC016970.


0000-0002-3679-5234 (Dagendorf)