For the last century, tide gauges have been used to measure sea level change along the world’s coastline. However, tide gauges are heterogeneously distributed and sparse in coverage. The measured sea level changes are also affected by solid-Earth geophysics. Since 1992, satellite radar altimetry technique made possible to measure heights at sea independent of land changes. Recently various efforts started to improve the sea level record reprocessing past altimetry missions to create an almost 30 year-long combined record for sea level research studies. Moreover, coastal altimetry, i.e. the extension of altimetry into the oceanic coastal zone and its exploitation for looking at climate-scale variations of sea level, has had a steady progress in recent years and has become a recognized mission target for present and future satellite altimeters. Global sea level rise is today well acknowledged. On the opposite, the regional and local patterns are much more complicated to observe and explain. Sea level falls in some places and rises in others, as a consequence of natural cycles and anthropogenic causes. As relative sea level height continues to increase, many coastal cities can have the local elevation closer to the flooding line. It is evident that at land-sea interface a single technique is not enough to de-couple land and sea level changes. Satellite radar altimetry and tide gauges would coincide at coast if land had no vertical motion. By noting this fact, the difference of the two independent measurements is a proxy of land motion. In this chapter, we review recent advances in open ocean and coastal altimetry to measure sea level changes close to the coasts over the satellite radar altimetry era. The various methods to measure sea level trends are discussed, with focus on a more robust inverse method that has been tested in the Northern Adriatic Sea, where Global Positioning System (GPS) data are available to conduct a realistic assessment of uncertainties. The results show that the classical approach of estimating Vertical Land Motion (VLM) provides values that are almost half of those provided by the new Linear Inverse Problem With Constraints (LIPWC) method, in a new formulation which makes use of a change of variable (LIPWCCOV). Moreover, the accuracy of the new VLM estimates is lower when compared to the VLM estimated from GPS measurements. The experimental Sea Level Climate Change Initiative (SLCCI) data set (high resolution along track) coastal sea level product (developed within Climate Change Initiative (CCI project) that has been also assessed in the Gulf of Trieste show that the trends calculated with the gridded and along track datasets exhibit some differences, probably due to the different methodologies used in the generation of the products.
Part of the book: Geodetic Sciences