Sea-level trend in the South China Sea observed from 20 years of along-track satellite altimetric data

Yongcun Cheng, Qing Xu, Ole Baltazar Andersen

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The sea-level trend in the South China Sea (SCS) is investigated based on 20 years of along-track data from TOPEX and Jason-1/2 satellite altimetry. The average sea-level rise over all the regions in the study area is observed to have a rate of 5.1 ± 0.8 mm year-1 for the period from 1993 to 2012. The steric sea level contributes 45% to the observed sea-level trend. These results are consistent with previous studies. In addition, the results demonstrate that the maximum sea-level rise rate of 8.4 mm year-1 is occurring off the east coast of Vietnam and eastern part of SCS. During 2010-2011, the La Niña event was highly correlated with the dramatic sea-level rise in the SCS; La Niña events were also associated with the maximum rate of sea rise off the east coast of Vietnam, which occurred during 1993 and 2012. We also evaluated the trends in the geophysical (e.g. dynamical atmospheric correction (DAC)) and range corrections (e.g. wet tropospheric correction, dry tropospheric correction, and ionosphere correction), which can leak into the observed sea-level record and be interpreted as part of the sea-level trend. The mean DAC trend within the SCS is found to be 0.4 ± 0.1 mm year-1 with >0.7 mm year-1 exhibited in the northern portion of the SCS. This is validated by comparing the altimetric data with the DAC-corrected tide gauge data at Xisha. In the southern SCS, the trend in wet troposphere correction, which is based on radiometer measurements on board the satellite, should be considered for local sea-level trend estimation. © 2014 © 2014 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number11-12
Pages (from-to)4329-4339
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Coastal zones
  • Ionosphere
  • Troposphere
  • Altimetric data
  • Atmospheric corrections
  • Highly-correlated
  • Satellite altimetric data
  • Satellite altimetry
  • Steric sea level
  • Trend estimation
  • Troposphere correction
  • Sea level
  • ARTIFICIAL satellites

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