Sea level change will be the most fundamental factor driving coastal change along the U.S. – and global – coastline in the coming decades and centuries, with profound disruption and displacement of infrastructure and communities. However, sea level does not change uniformly, due to coupled interactions between the ocean, cryosphere, and solid earth. Regional sea level rise can be significantly larger or smaller (by 50% or more) than the global average, with the U.S. coast heavily impacted by regional variations.

Current climate models do not simulate sea level explicitly but calculate implied sea level changes offline based on 1) diagnosing the ocean volume change that corresponds to changes in ocean heat content (steric component) and 2) projections of mass input from melting glaciers and ice sheets from external glacier and ice sheet models (barystatic or eustatic component).

The SLE-E3SM project aims to fill this gap by adding explicit representation of regional sea level within the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM). This will provide a unique tool for projecting future coastal imapcts of climate change. The Sea-Level-Enabled E3SM will also be used to investigate the accuracy of existing sea level projection methods that rely on adding disparate, non-interacting contributors to sea level. The SLE-E3SM project is funded by the Earth and Environmental System Modeling program area of the Biological and Environmental Research program (BER) in the DOE’s Office of Science.

The SLE-E3SM project builds on previous DOE investments in Earth system modeling (E3SM) and ice-sheet model development (ProSPect).


Icebergs in Disko Bay, Greenland