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UH Sea Level Center expands forecasts with new federal funding

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Contact:
Philip Thompson, (808) 956-6574
Acting Director, UH Sea Level Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
Marcie Grabowski, (808) 956-3151
Outreach Specialist, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
Posted: Nov 9, 2017

High sea level in Waikiki. Credit: Hawaii Sea Grant King Tides Project.
High sea level in Waikiki. Credit: Hawaii Sea Grant King Tides Project.
High water in Waikiki. Credit: Hawai‘i Sea Grant King Tides Project.
High water in Waikiki. Credit: Hawai‘i Sea Grant King Tides Project.

Over the next three years, the University of Hawai‘i  Sea Level Center at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and its partners will receive over $5 million from NOAA’s Climate Program Office in the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research line for sea level rise research.

One aspect of the new funding supports “Multi-Model Seasonal Sea Level Forecasts for the U.S. Coast." It will combine several different models to produce experimental regional sea level outlooks months in advance for Pacific Islands including Hawai‘i, Puerto Rico and the entire continental U.S.

Given that no seasonal prediction of coastal high water events currently exists on a national scale, this project will be invaluable to community members and community planners for long- and short-term decision making. Ultimately, the research team will develop a web portal to provide the regional sea level outlooks to the public, including high-water alerts, which could be used for new or existing NOAA coastal flood products.

“The occurrence, duration and amplitude of coastal flooding events are increasing with rising sea levels,” said Mark Merrifield, lead investigator of the new seasonal sea level forecasts project and former director of the Sea Level Center. “The ability to assess when high regional sea levels are likely to occur will benefit managers and decision makers involved in coastal flooding mitigation.”    

The other aspect of funding provides ongoing support for the Sea Level Center to collect and quality control tide gauge data from around the world through a cooperative agreement between NOAA and the Joint Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Research. The Sea Level Center is the only group in the world that provides the public with up-to-date hourly sea level data from a global tide gauge network. These data are essential for studying sea level extremes and monitoring long-term global sea level rise.

“Support from NOAA enables the Sea Level Center to serve as a data center for sea level observations and maintain tide gauges in the Global Sea Level Observing System,” said Acting Director Philip Thompson. “NOAA has and is making a substantial investment in sea level research and observations via the Sea Level Center, and with sea level rise being a big issue for the state, we are proud to be taking the lead on these new and continued efforts.”