Energy and climate change

Sea level: Dutch coast and worldwide, 1891-2012

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The sea level along the Dutch coast steadily rose by about 23 cm during the last 120 years, a change of 1.9 mm per year. This is roughly in line with the sea-level rise worldwide; about 21 cm over the same period.

Sea-level rise along Dutch coast about 18 cm in 20th century

Data obtained by the Dutch Directorate for Public Works and Water Management from along the North Sea coast show a linear sea level rise of 23 cm on average over the last 120 years (1.86 ± 0.15 mm per year on average).

No acceleration along Dutch coast

Analysis of the data series for the Dutch coast does not show any acceleration in sea-level rise. 'Acceleration' means that the trend in sea-level rise is not linear, but deviates from the linear trend (therefore, as long as there is a linear trend, there is no acceleration. Every deviation from the linear trend results in a positive or negative acceleration).

Is global sea-level rise accelerating?

The literature dealing with sea-level rise is inconsistent when it comes to acceleration. However, researchers do agree on changes up to the year 1990. Church en White (2011) report an acceleration in global sea-level change in the reconstructed global data series. Prior to 1930, sea-level rise took place at less than 1.0 mm a year. Between the end of the 1930s and the late 1950s, the global sea-level rise was above 2.0 mm a year, with a peak of 2.5 mm a year. The sea level then rose by an average of more than 2.0 mm a year between the late 1950s and the mid-1980s. Holgate (2007) and Woodworth et al. (2009) confirm the acceleration in global sea-level rise between 1920 and 1930 and the deceleration in about 1960.
For the period after 1990, Church en White (2011) measured an acceleration in global sea-level rise that is almost equal to that from satellite data; just above 2.8 ± 0,8 mm a year. Merrifield et al. (2009) found an acceleration of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/year. They claim that the higher annual sea-level rise measured after 1990 is mainly due to higher sea-level rises in the tropical oceans and the oceans in the southern hemisphere. Holgate (2007), on the other hand, does not find any sign of acceleration after 1990 (small number of carefully-selected data series). See Woodworth et al. (2009) for an overview. We do not claim that acceleration is or is not taking place here, but believe that more research is required.


  • Church, J.A., P.L. Woodworth, T. Aarup en W.S. Wilson (2010). Understanding sea-level rise and variability. Wiley-Blackwell, UK.
  • Church, J.A. and N.J. White (2011). Sea-level rise from the late 19th to the early 21st century. Surveys in Geophysics 32, 585-602.
  • Holgate, S.J. (2007). On the decadal rates of sea level change during the twentieth century. GRL, vol. 34, doi:10.1029/2006GL028492.

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Reference for this page

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2014). Sea level: Dutch coast and worldwide, 1891-2012 (indicator 0229, version 08 , 8 August 2014 ). Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.

The Environmental Data Compendium is a partnership of CBS, PBL, RIVM and WUR.