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ESEAS-RI - European SEA level Service Research Infrastructure

Summary information

Total cost:3426209
Ec contribution:2299786
Start date:2002-11-01
End date:2005-10-31
Duration:36 months
Coordinator:Bjoern Engen (
Organisation:Norwegian Mapping Authority, Geodetic institute – Norway
Themes:Sea level rise
Project name:ESEAS-RI - European SEA level Service Research Infrastructure
Project summary:Abstract
Sea level is an environmental variable important for studying climate processes in the coupled atmosphere-ocean system. In Europe, the physical network for observing sea level at coastal sites is well developed in most geographical regions. However, in some crucial parts (particularly the Arctic Sea, the Eastern Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea), the network needs upgrading of the gauges to modern standards. Augmentation of the observing sites with equipment to monitor the stability of the tide gauge and vertical land movement is another urgent issue.

Currently, access to more than 50 individual sea-level databases in European countries is still severely hampered due to national diversity in operation, uneven technological developments, non-standardised products, and different levels of quality assurance.

The European Sea Level Service (ESEAS) is in the process of building up one integrated virtual sea-level information source comprising most of the sea level observing and research resources in Europe. The network of ESEAS Observing Sites will be improved and access to the scattered sea level database standardised. The extensive tide gauge database will be utilised to study sea level variations on decadal to century time scales. An empirical model describing decadal to inter-decadal sea level variations will be derived through combination of tide gauge and satellite altimetry observations. The factors causing these variations will be identified and their contribution quantified. Particular emphasis will be on the North Atlantic Oscillation. A statistical description of the variability of extreme sea levels will be given for the entire European coasts in order to assess future risks.

The ESEAS-RI project is established by ESEAS to support the research infrastructure of ESEAS and facilitate full scientific exploitation of European sea level observations.

Objectives and approach:
The European Sea Level Service (ESEAS) has made the initial step in bringing together the formerly scattered sea level research infrastructure in Europe. ESEAS is developing into a major research infrastructure for all aspects related to sea-level, be it in the field of climate change research, natural hazards and marine research.

The primary technological objective of the ESEAS-RI project is to support the ESEAS research infrastructure and to facilitate the transnational coordination, the upgrading of the network of observing sites and the standardisation of the network, the operational routines, the databases and the quality-control as a prerequisite for a full scientific exploitation of the present and future sea level observations.

The primary scientific objective of the project is to study sea level variations at inter-annual to century time scales and to quantify potential future changes in mean sea level. In order to reach this objective, the following main steps are necessary:
- Quality control of the hourly tide gauge data accessible through the ESEAS;
- Determination of vertical land movements at tide gauges in order to decontaminate the relative sea level records for this bias;
- Determination of sea level variations on inter-decadal time scales in the North Atlantic and the semi-enclosed European seas as well as assessment of secular relative sea level trends for the European coasts;
- Improvement of the network of ESEAS Observing Sites through upgrading of selected tide gauges and co-location of gauges with continuous GPS.

Expected impacts:
The availability of a quality-controlled database of hourly tide gauge data, and the successful upgrading of the ESEAS network are major milestones. The project is expected to result in a major improvement of the research infrastructure comprised in the ESEAS. The research carried out in the project will result in an empirical model of sea level variations, which provides a unique basis for future studies of climate processes at decadal to inter-decadal time scales, particularly the North Atlantic Oscillation, as well as a coherent description of the occurrence of extreme sea levels.

The project will stimulate the integration of the European sea level research community into a larger network and thus promote coordinated research. The work in the project will directly result in contributions to environmental assessment reports and will also give information with respect to obstacles for the exploitation of existing multi-national databases in terms of e.g. technical, data quality and policy, legal and organisational issues.