The Impact of Horizontal Resolution on Projected Sea-Level Rise Along US East Continental Shelf With the Community Earth System Model. Academic Article uri icon


  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report lists sea-level rise as one of the major future climate challenges. Based on pre-industrial and historical-and-future climate simulations with the Community Earth System Model, we analyze the projected sea-level rise in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean with two sets of simulations at different horizontal resolutions. Compared with observations, the low resolution (LR) model simulated Gulf Stream does not separate from the shore but flows northward along the entire coast, causing large biases in regional dynamic sea level (DSL). The high resolution (HR) model improves the Gulf Stream representation and reduces biases in regional DSL. Under the RCP8.5 future climate scenario, LR projects a DSL trend of 1.5-2mm/yr along the northeast continental shelf (north of 40 N), which is 2-3 times the trend projected by HR. Along the southeast shelf (south of 35 N), HR projects a DSL trend of 0.5-1mm/yr while the DSL trend in LR is statistically insignificant. The different spatial patterns of DSL changes are attributable to the different Gulf Stream reductions in response to a weakening Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Due to its poor representation of the Gulf Stream, LR projects larger (smaller) current decreases along the north (south) east continental slope compared to HR. This leads to larger (smaller) trends of DSL rise along the north (south) east shelf in LR than in HR. The results of this study suggest that the better resolved ocean circulations in HR can have significant impacts on regional DSL simulations and projections.

published proceedings

  • J Adv Model Earth Syst

author list (cited authors)

  • Li, D., Chang, P., Yeager, S. G., Danabasoglu, G., Castruccio, F. S., Small, J., ... Gopal, A.

complete list of authors

  • Li, Dapeng||Chang, Ping||Yeager, Stephen G||Danabasoglu, Gokhan||Castruccio, Frederic S||Small, Justin||Wang, Hong||Zhang, Qiuying||Gopal, Abishek

publication date

  • January 1, 2014 11:11 AM