[PAST EVENT] Decadal level sea-level forecasting: Do we need it and can we do it?

November 8, 2013
VIMS - Watermen's Hall, McHugh Auditorium
1375 Greate Road
Gloucester Point, VA 23062Map this location
Presenter: Dr. Hans-Peter Plag Professor and co-Director of Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise Initiative (CCSLRI) at Old Dominion University

Reception at 3:00 p.m. in the lobby of Watermen's Hall
Seminar from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in McHugh Auditorium

Hans-Peter Plag studied mathematics and geophysics in Berlin and obtained his PhD in Natural Sciences in 1988 from the Free University of Berlin.

From 1988 to 1997 he was head of a research group in geodynamics at the University of Kiel, Germany. During that time, he was also active in environmental movements and later a member of the Green Party. Among others, he was the lead author of a concept for waste reduction and recycling, which contributed to a significant reduction in waste and an increase in recycling. In his teaching, he introduced the students to the concept of sustainability and challenged them with the question of how Earth sciences can contribute to a successful quest for sustainable development. In 1995, he worked for five months at the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Bidston, United Kingdom. From 1997 to 2004 he was the head of the department “Global Reference” at the Geodetic Institute of the Norwegian Mapping Authority in Norway, where he also was professor (mathematical models in geodesy) at the University of Oslo. From 2004 to 2012, he was a research professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and affiliated with the Nevada Geodetic Laboratory and the Nevada Seismological Laboratory. From 2012 to 2013, he held the Chair on Global Change and Sustainability and was the Director of the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute (GCSRI), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

In June 2013, he joined ODU as the Co-Director of the Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative (CCSLRI) and Professor in the Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Science. He also is a Visiting Professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Societal and environmental effects of sea level rise are among the major impacts of climate change. Recent assessments of future local sea level (LSL) rise mostly addressed the next 50 to 200 years, and they revealed a very large range of plausible LSL trajectories, which provides limited actionable decision support. However, rapid LSL changes far exceeding those experienced over the last 6,000 years or those considered plausible in most recent assessments of future changes can not be excluded, not even for the next few decades. Such changes pose an unparalleled threat to humanity. A reliable inter-annual to decadal LSL forecasting service would provide "early warning" in case of an onset of rapid LSL rise with lead times sufficient for considerable mitigation of such a low-probability, high-impact event. We are implementing a system model, which is designed to interface with existing modules including global models (climate, ocean, ice sheets, glaciers, continental hydrosphere); regional models for steric and circulation effects; local models for vertical land motion; and physical models to convert global processes into local effects. Initially, some of the modules are weakly coupled and based on input from complex models (both internal and external), while other modules are networked locally. Assimilation of observations on global to regional scales (e.g., gravity field, Earth rotation, sea surface heights) and on local scale data (e.g., InSAR, GNSS, tide gauges) provide additional constrains. Depending on performance, the validated system model could be a key element of a pilot decadal forecasting service for LSL changes for integration in the portfolio of NOAA's climate services.

[[seitz, Rochelle Seitz]] at 804-684-7698