Ocean Science

Ross Revisited

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Science  18 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5985, pp. 1455-1457
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5985.1455-d

Nowadays, satellite altimetry is the preferred means of monitoring sea level with high precision. Correlating modern records with historical measurements, in order to construct a record of long-term sea-level change, therefore depends on the reliability of pre-satellite data. In this context, Woodworth et al. reexamined tidal gauge measurements collected in 1842 in the Falkland Islands by the British explorer James Clark Ross. Based on his diligently kept records and adjustments for air pressure variations and glacial isostatic rebound, the authors estimate the long-term rate of sea-level change between 1842 and the mid-1980s to be +0.75 ± 0.35 mm per year. New measurements based on the same benchmark Ross installed at Port Louis, as well as additional measurements taken with permanent pressure-based tide gauges at nearby Port Stanley over the past 25 years, suggest that the rate of sea-level rise increased to +2.5 ± 0.58 mm per year since 1992. This accelerated rate of sea-level rise agrees with similar trends observed by satellite data in other ocean basins around the world. The data of Ross and his colleagues also provide historical value in reflecting how sampling took place—an especially important contribution because many of Ross' notes—including his original journal documenting his methods—have been missing for over 20 years.

J. Geophys. Res. 115, 10.1029/2010JC006113 (2010).

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