Jianjun Yin to lead new NOAA-funded project to improve predictions of Pacific sea levels

Oct. 8, 2018

Jianjun Yin, University of Arizona associate professor of geosciences, will lead a competitively funded National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association research project that will help improve sea level predictions and longer-term forecasts by reducing uncertainty. Current climate models of sea level variability and change in the Pacific Ocean tend to produce forecast errors, which reduce the accuracy of future climate and sea level predictions.

“Better sea level predictions would provide important information for coastal communities and guide coastal planning in the U.S.,” said Yin, the new project’s lead scientist.

NOAA Research’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) Program is supporting the project with a $434,208 grant over the next three years. Yin will use this grant to analyze climate model data from a set of experiments, performed by modeling groups all over the world, designed to evaluate differences among climate models in how they simulate our global climate system.  

Using this data, his main goals are to better understand sea level variability and change in the Pacific Ocean, measure the model forecast errors and compare the results with other models, and then conduct a series of experiments to study the sources of the errors as well as critical atmospheric and oceanic processes that could lead to model improvement.

Since roughly 40% of the U.S. population lives in coastal areas, improved sea level predictions could help better prepare at-risk communities for flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms.

In addition, Yin explained that sea level variability and change has been consistently correlated during the recent decades with average global sea surface temperatures, since the ocean expands as it warms. Thus with a better model representation of Pacific sea level, global mean surface temperature prediction would also be more accurate.

“The outcome of the project will provide strategies, methods and pathways for model development and improvement regarding Pacific sea level simulations, and eventually reduce model uncertainty in both future climate and sea level predictions and longer-term forecasts,” said Yin.

This project will ultimately benefit modeling communities and model development teams, climate change and sea level rise research communities, as well as coastal communities that are vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge.

The newly funded project also includes co-investigator Stephen Griffies, a Senior Scientist at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.