"For example, processes associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation have a strong influence on the sea levels around Britain over multi-decadal periods."
London, May 12 - The burning question whether sea level rise is accelerating can only be answered with a degree of certainty by 2030, an international team of scientists has claimed.
The team has developed a new method for revealing how sea levels might rise around the world throughout the 21st century.
The team, led by University of Southampton, analysed data from 10 long-term sea level monitoring stations located around the world.
They looked into the future to identify the timing at which sea level accelerations might first be recognised in a significant manner.
Our results show that by 2020 to 2030, we could have some statistical certainty of what the sea level rise situation will look like for the end of the century, said lead author Ivan Haigh from University of Southampton.
That means we will know what to expect and have 70 years to plan. In a subject that has so much uncertainty, this gives us the gift of long-term planning, Haigh added.
Scientists should continue to update the analysis every 5 to 10 years, creating more certainty in long-term planning - and helping develop solutions for a changing planet, he added.
The study found that the most important approach to the earliest possible detection of a significant sea level acceleration lies in improved understanding of inter-annual to multi-decadal variability in sea level records.
The measured sea levels reflect a variety of processes operating at different time scales, said co-author Francisco Calafat, from the National Oceanography Centre.
For example, processes associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation have a strong influence on the sea levels around Britain over multi-decadal periods.
Such processes introduce a large amount of 'noise' into the record, masking any underlying acceleration in the rate of rise.