Oceanic control of sea level rise patterns along the East Coast of the United States

Jianjun Yin, Paul B. Goddard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. from Florida to Maine, sea level rise (SLR) shows notable patterns and significant deviation from the global mean, which have been attributed to land subsidence. Consistent with several recent studies, we analyze various observation and modeling data, and find that ocean dynamics is also an important factor in explaining these coastal SLR patterns. Despite a southward shift since the 1990s, an overall northward shift of the Gulf Stream during the twentieth century contributed to the faster SLR in the Mid-Atlantic region (North Carolina to New Jersey). In response to the 21st century climatic forcing, the rise (fall) of the dynamic sea level north (south) of Cape Hatteras is mainly induced by the significant decline of ocean density contrast across the Gulf Stream. This baroclinic process is the likely cause of the recent switch of the coastal SLR to a pattern with faster (slower) rates north (south) of Cape Hatteras. Key Points Ocean dynamics can explain the sea level rise patterns along the U.S. East Coast Northward shift of the Gulf Stream caused faster sea level rise in Mid-Atlantic Ocean density change causes the north-high south-low sea level rise pattern

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5514-5520
Number of pages7
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 28 2013


  • U.S. East Coast
  • dynamic sea level
  • sea level rise
  • sea level rise modeling
  • tide gauge and altimetry data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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