IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

TS.6.2.3 Oceans and Sea Level

Robust Findings:

The global temperature (or heat content) of the oceans has increased since 1955. {5.2}

Large-scale regionally coherent trends in salinity have been observed over recent decades with freshening in subpolar regions and increased salinity in the shallower parts of the tropics and subtropics. These trends are consistent with changes in precipitation and inferred larger water transport in the atmosphere from low latitudes to high latitudes and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. {5.2}

Global average sea level rose during the 20th century. There is high confidence that the rate of sea level rise increased between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. During 1993 to 2003, sea level rose more rapidly than during 1961 to 2003. {5.5}

Thermal expansion of the ocean and loss of mass from glaciers and ice caps made substantial contributions to the observed sea level rise. {5.5}

The observed rate of sea level rise from 1993 to 2003 is consistent with the sum of observed contributions from thermal expansion and loss of land ice. {5.5}

The rate of sea level change over recent decades has not been geographically uniform. {5.5}

As a result of uptake of anthropogenic CO2 since 1750, the acidity of the surface ocean has increased. {5.4, 7.3}

Key Uncertainties:

Limitations in ocean sampling imply that decadal variability in global heat content, salinity and sea level changes can only be evaluated with moderate confidence. {5.2, 5.5}

There is low confidence in observations of trends in the MOC. {Box 5.1}

Global average sea level rise from 1961 to 2003 appears to be larger than can be explained by thermal expansion and land ice melting. {5.5}