Articles | Volume 10, issue 6
Development and technical paper
30 Jun 2017
Development and technical paper |  | 30 Jun 2017

Synthesizing long-term sea level rise projections – the MAGICC sea level model v2.0

Alexander Nauels, Malte Meinshausen, Matthias Mengel, Katja Lorbacher, and Tom M. L. Wigley

Abstract. Sea level rise (SLR) is one of the major impacts of global warming; it will threaten coastal populations, infrastructure, and ecosystems around the globe in coming centuries. Well-constrained sea level projections are needed to estimate future losses from SLR and benefits of climate protection and adaptation. Process-based models that are designed to resolve the underlying physics of individual sea level drivers form the basis for state-of-the-art sea level projections. However, associated computational costs allow for only a small number of simulations based on selected scenarios that often vary for different sea level components. This approach does not sufficiently support sea level impact science and climate policy analysis, which require a sea level projection methodology that is flexible with regard to the climate scenario yet comprehensive and bound by the physical constraints provided by process-based models. To fill this gap, we present a sea level model that emulates global-mean long-term process-based model projections for all major sea level components. Thermal expansion estimates are calculated with the hemispheric upwelling-diffusion ocean component of the simple carbon-cycle climate model MAGICC, which has been updated and calibrated against CMIP5 ocean temperature profiles and thermal expansion data. Global glacier contributions are estimated based on a parameterization constrained by transient and equilibrium process-based projections. Sea level contribution estimates for Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are derived from surface mass balance and solid ice discharge parameterizations reproducing current output from ice-sheet models. The land water storage component replicates recent hydrological modeling results. For 2100, we project 0.35 to 0.56 m (66 % range) total SLR based on the RCP2.6 scenario, 0.45 to 0.67 m for RCP4.5, 0.46 to 0.71 m for RCP6.0, and 0.65 to 0.97 m for RCP8.5. These projections lie within the range of the latest IPCC SLR estimates. SLR projections for 2300 yield median responses of 1.02 m for RCP2.6, 1.76 m for RCP4.5, 2.38 m for RCP6.0, and 4.73 m for RCP8.5. The MAGICC sea level model provides a flexible and efficient platform for the analysis of major scenario, model, and climate uncertainties underlying long-term SLR projections. It can be used as a tool to directly investigate the SLR implications of different mitigation pathways and may also serve as input for regional SLR assessments via component-wise sea level pattern scaling.

Short summary
The MAGICC sea level model projects global sea level rise by emulating process-based estimates for all major sea level drivers and applying them to available climate scenarios and their extensions to 2300. The MAGICC sea level projections are well within the ranges of the fifth IPCC assessment report. Due to its efficient structure, this emulator is a powerful tool for exploring sea level uncertainties and investigating sea level responses for a wide range of climate mitigation pathways.