Modeling sea-level processes on the U.S. Atlantic Coast

Candace Berrett, William F. Christensen, Stephan R. Sain, Nathan Sandholtz, David W. Coats, Claudia Tebaldi, Hedibert F. Lopes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


One of the major concerns engendered by a warming climate are changing sea levels and their lasting effects on coastal populations, infrastructures, and natural habitats. Sea levels are now monitored by satellites, but long-term records are only available at discrete locations along the coasts. Sea levels and sea-level processes must be better understood at the local level to best inform real-world adaptation decisions. We propose a statistical model that facilitates the characterization of known sea-level processes, which jointly govern the observed sea level along the United States Atlantic Coast. Our model not only incorporates long-term sea level rise and seasonal cycles but also accurately accounts for residual spatiotemporal processes. By combining a spatially varying coefficient modeling approach with spatiotemporal factor analysis methods in a Bayesian framework, the method represents the contribution of each of these processes and accounts for corresponding dependencies and uncertainties in a coherent way. Additionally, the model provides a consistent way to estimate these processes and sea level values at unmonitored locations along the coast. We show the outcome of the proposed model using thirty years of sea level data from 38 stations along the Atlantic (east) Coast of the United States. Among other results, our method estimates the rate of sea level rise to range from roughly 1 mm/year in the northern and southern regions of the Atlantic coast to 5.4 mm/year in the middle region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2609
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • MCMC
  • coastal processes
  • confirmatory factor analysis
  • multivariate autoregressive model
  • sea level rise
  • spatial basis functions
  • spatiotemporal modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Ecological Modeling


Dive into the research topics of 'Modeling sea-level processes on the U.S. Atlantic Coast'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this