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Ulf Gräwe, Knut Klingbeil, Jessica Kelln, and Sönke Dangendorf


We analyzed changes in mean sea level (MSL) for the period 1950–2015 using a regional ocean model for the Baltic Sea. Sensitivity experiments allowed us to separate external from local drivers and to investigate individual forcing agents triggering basin-internal spatial variations. The model reveals a basin-average MSL rise (MSLR) of 2.08 ± 0.49 mm yr−1, a value that is slightly larger than the simultaneous global average of 1.63 ± 0.32 mm yr−1. This MSLR is, however, spatially highly nonuniform with lower than average increases in the southwestern part (1.71 ± 0.51 mm yr−1) and higher than average rates in the northeastern parts (2.34 ± 1.05 mm yr−1). While 75% of the basin-average MSL externally enters the Baltic basin as a mass signal from the adjacent North Sea, intensified westerly winds and a poleward shift of low pressure systems explain the majority of the spatial variations in the rates. Minor contributions stem from local changes in baroclinicity leading to a basin-internal redistribution of water masses. An observed increase in local ocean temperature further adds to the total basinwide MSLR through thermal expansion but has little effect on the spatial pattern. To test the robustness of these results, we further assessed the sensitivity to six different atmospheric surface forcing reanalysis products over their common period from 1980 to 2005. The ensemble runs indicated that there are significant differences between individual ensemble members increasing the total trend uncertainty for the basin average by 0.22 mm yr−1 (95% confidence intervals). Locally the uncertainty varies from 0.05 mm yr−1 in the central part to up to 0.4 mm yr−1 along the coasts.

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