The rate of global sea level rise accelerated throughout the previous century, with estimates ranging between 1–2 mm/yr for the whole century, and increasing to more than 3 mm/yr for the last couple of decades. Although significant regional differences due to tectonic settings exist, sea level is rising along many coasts worldwide and will continue into the future.

In addition to the daily tidal cycles, sea level rise over has been observed both on land and also from space. Observed sea level rise is due to changes in ocean volume on longer time scales (decades to centuries) and events (hours to days). The event related short term sea level rise is known as storm surge. Climate change is a major driver of sea level rise as it impacts the density of ocean water. As oceans absorb heat, water becomes less dense occupy a larger volume, while inputs from declining land ice also contributes to decreasing ocean water density. When considering sea level changes at the coastline, vertical land motion must be taken into account. The highest sea level impacts are usually associated with storm surges. Given that in many places sea level is rising, and the frequency of extreme events is expected to increase, destructive impacts of storm surge is likely to increase, as well.

Image: Christian Schmid, GKSS Image Image: André Künzelmann, UFZ

The ECRA Collaborative Programme

The ECRA Collaborative Programme on Sea level and climate change focuses on the regional aspects of sea level change, which is a challenging theme for European research and coastal management. The programme aims to facilitate integration of several activities developed concerning the Atlantic and Baltic European coasts and the Mediterranean area. The goal is the development of an integrated view of regional aspects of sea level change in Europe, in terms of observations, technological development, modelling improvements, as well as cross-disciplinary communication between sea level scientists, coastal engineers, coastal managers and stakeholders.

The scope of the ECRA Collaborative Programme Sea level and Climate Change covers a list of relevant science topics. These topics can be adjusted and allow flexible participation of ECRA and non-ECRA partners. ECRA's goal is to facilitate collaboration among scientists and improve the communication between the scientific community and the public at large.

Key Topics

Image: Christian Schmid, GKSS


Observations of sea level and related processes

  • Observations of sea level and and relevant processes are important in order to improve the modeling of future regional sea level change.
  • In some places, vertical land motion may offset sea level rise or may add to it, caused by tectonic processes, large-scale crustal adjustment from previous ice ages, subsidence
  • Sea level reconstructions from prehistoric periods from and between previous ice ages can provide constaints on rates and maximum levels of sea level change



Regional Modeling Tools for predicting future sea level changes

  • Modeling sea level changes is necessary in order to predict future sea level to help guide mitigation strategies. The development of regional modeling is one of the most important tasks today. A careful analysis of the interaction of the different components affecting the sea level change has to be conducted on semi-enclosed regional seas, as for example the Mediterranean Sea and Baltic Sea.

Image: André Künzelmann, UFZ


Impacts of sea level changes

  • Coastal impacts of sea level change are the ultimate target for our contribution to society. We consider both extreme events and sea level rise in general, and provide suggestions for appropriate adaption measures.
  • Sea level extremes result in coastal flooding and high impact. Ongoing climate change may lead to more severe impacts.
  • Regional studies combining knowledge of future regional sea level change, sea level extremes, and possible impacts are a major focus of our research efforts.

Image: ECRA


Communication and network

  • To identify data needs and design better management plans across national borders, ECRA works on improving communication between sea level scientists working on future projections and coastal engineers.
  • To communicate scientific results to the public and coastal managers and authorities, we constantly work on improving our communication.
  • We aim at building a European network of natural and social scientists and stakeholders.



The CP SLC has organised four Workshops so far. For further information on the Workshops, please follow this link.


The CP SLC has a White Paper containing information on the CP’s goals and main topics. The current White Paper from December 5, 2016 can be downloaded here.

A Factsheet presenting key issues as well as recommendations for research priorities in H2020 and beyond was prepared for ECRA’s General Assembly 2017. It is available for download at this link.


The CP is coordinated by the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), and the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (NERSC) in Norway.

  • Gianmaria Sannino: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • J. Even Ø. Nilsen: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Back to top