18.104.22.168 Solid Earth and Geoid Changes
Geodynamical processes related to the solid Earth’s elastic and viscoelastic response to spatially variable ice melt loading (due to the last deglaciation and present-day land ice melt) also cause non-uniform sea level change (e.g., Mitrovica et al., 2001; Peltier, 2001, 2004; Plag, 2006). The solid Earth and oceans continue to respond to the ice and complementary water loads associated with the late Pleistocene and early Holocene glacial cycles through GIA. This process not only drives large crustal uplift near the location of former ice complexes, but also produces a worldwide signature in sea level that results from gravitational, deformational and rotational effects: as the viscous mantle material flows to restore isostasy during and after the last deglaciation, uplift occurs under the former centres of the ice sheets while the surrounding peripheral bulges experience a subsidence. The return of the melt water to the oceans produces an ongoing geoid change resulting in subsidence of the ocean basins and an upward warping of the continents, while the flow of water into the subsiding peripheral bulges contributes a broad scale sea level fall in the far field of the ice complexes. The combined gravitational and deformational effects also perturb the rotation vector of the planet, and this perturbation feeds back into variations in the position of the crust and the geoid (an equipotential surface of the Earth’s gravity field that coincides with the mean surface of the oceans). Corrections for GIA effects are made to both tide gauge and altimeter estimates of global sea level change (see Sections 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199).
Self-gravitation and deformation of the Earth’s surface in response to the ongoing change in loading by glaciers and ice sheets is another cause of regional sea level variations. Model predictions show quite different patterns of non-uniform sea level change depending on the source of the ice melt (Mitrovica et al., 2001; Plag, 2006), and associated regional sea level variations reach up to a few 0.1 mm yr–1.