Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

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Fifty shades of sea level

Geophysicist Paolo Stocchi studies nuances in the earth’s sea levels ‘Broadly speaking, it is correct to state that the sea level is rising due to global warming. However, there are incredible regional differences. For example, we are rightly concerned about the melting of enormous ice masses on land, such as on Greenland and Antarctica. After all, it is those ice masses that cause the worldwide sea level to rise the most. Meanwhile, things could work out very differently for the Greenlanders if thousands of cubic kilometres of ice were to melt there. The gravitational force of the ice mass on the land now literally pulls at the sea level. If that effect disappears, then the sea level around Greenland could actually fall instead if rise due to less ice being on the land!’

From researchers to engineers

‘My work mainly consists of modelling effects like this one. I convert factors such as gravity, ice masses, land and water into mathematical terms and calculate what will change at a local or regional level when, for example, more or less ice lies on the land. All these models are open source and can therefore be freely used by researchers and students throughout the world. They are also interesting for engineers who need to design a new harbour somewhere, for example, and so want to know exactly which sea levels they need to take into account.’

New coastline

‘My work has started to expand into neighbouring disciplines as well. If you calculate sea levels, then that also has consequences for coastlines. In turn, that has consequences for the supply and removal of sediment in deltas. Even the exact level of the ebb and flood change due to the effects of gravity on land and water. In tide tables, you can now already read what the high and low tide levels will be at a certain location in several years’ time. On the basis of mathematical models, you can already implement a correction on these: how high or how low will the water be at certain times if the global sea level rises?’

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Research interests

My research activity focuses on the numerical modelling of sea-level changes that are caused by ice-sheets fluctuations in response to climate change. In particular, I am interested in studying the physical processes that involve the solid Earth, the oceans and the continental ice masses and that contribute to the complex process known as glacial and hydro isostatic adjustment. Large part of my work has focussed and still focuses on the geological past, but I am also interested in the present-day as well as in future scenarios. My current and future research activity at NIOZ will focus on the interaction between climate-driven processes and ocean dynamics with particular emphasis on the coastal geomorphological as well as ecological response to sea-level change.



From 2017: Tenure track scientist at NIOZ, Department of Coastal Systems (COS)

2012-2016: Post-doc at NIOZ, Department of Physical oceanography (supervisor: Prof. Bert L.A. Vermeersen, TU Delft and NIOZ)

2011-2012: Post-doc at IMAU Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht University (Utrecht, The Netherlands). Supervisor: Prof. Roderik S.W. van de Wal)

2008-2011: Post-doc at DEOS, Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, TU Delft (Delft, The Netherlands ). Supervisor: Prof. Bert L.A. Vermeersen

2007-2008: Research fellow at the Institute of Physics of the University of Urbino “Carlo Bo”. Supervisor: Dr. Giorgio Spada

2006: Spring Research fellow at the Faculty of Geology of Brown University, Providence (USA). Supervisor: Prof. Donald Forsyth

2003-2006: PhD student at the Department of Geophysics of the University of Bologna. Supervisor: Dr. Giorgio Spada

Fellowships and grants

2007-2008: Research fellowship inSolid Earth Physics, Faculty of Sciences and Technologies, University of Urbino “Carlo Bo”, Urbino, Italy

2006: Fellow Full Grant at Brown University, Providence (RI), USA

2003-2006: Ph.D. Research Fellowship in Geophysics granted by Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) and University of Bologna



Paolo Stocchi, Fabrizio Antonioli, Paolo Montagna, Fabrizio Pepe, Valeria Lo Presti, Antonio Caruso, Marta Corradino, Gino Dardanelli, Pietro Renda, Norbert Frank, Eric Douville, François Thil, Bas de Boer, Rosario Ruggieri,Rosanna Sciortino, Catherine Pierre, 2017. A stalactite record of four relative sea-level highstands during the Middle Pleistocene Transition. Quaternary Science Reviews, 173, 92-100.

Bas de Boer, Paolo Stocchi, Pippa L. Whitehouse, Roderik S.W. van de Wal, 2017. Current state and future perspectives on coupled ice-sheet – sea-level modelling. Quaternary Science Reviews, 169, 13-28.

Simone Galeotti, Robert DeConto, Timothy Naish, Paolo Stocchi, Fabio Florindo, Mark Pagani, Peter Barrett, Steven M. Bohaty, Luca Lanci, David Pollard, Sonia Sandroni, Franco M. Talarico, James C. Zachos, 2016. Antarctic Ice Sheet variability across the Eocene-Oligocene boundary climate transition. Science, 10.1126/science.aab0669.

Christian Ohneiser, Fabio Florindo, Paolo Stocchi, Andrew P. Roberts, Robert M. DeConto and David Pollard, 2015. Antarctic glacio-eustatic contributions to late Miocene Mediterranean desiccation and reflooding, Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9765.

Paolo Stocchi, Carlota Escutia, Alexander J. P. Houben, Bert L. A. Vermeersen, Peter K. Bijl, Henk Brinkhuis, Robert M. DeConto, Simone Galeotti, Sandra Passchier, David Pollard and IODP Expedition 318 scientists, 2013. Relative sea-level rise around East Antarctica during Oligocene glaciation, Nature Geoscience, DOI: 10.1038/NGEO1783.

Please find my complete list of NIOZ-publications at the bottom of this webpage. You can download all my publications on ResearchGate.


Professional education

2007: Ph.D in Geophysics at the University of Bologna. Thesis title: 'Glacial isostasy and sea level change in the Mediterranean: near and far-field effects on a millennium to century time-scale' (Supervisor Dr. Giorgio Spada)

2003: 'Magna cum laude' in Environmental Sciences at the University of Urbino 'Carlo Bo'. Thesis title: 'Global sea-level variations: the contribution of Pleistocene deglaciation' (Supervisor Dr. Giorgio Spada)


Collaborations and Activities

From 2013: Member of the Steering Committee of Past Antarctic Ice Sheet Dynamics (PAIS, 

From 2013: Collaborations within the MEDFLOOD MEDiterranean sea-level change and projection for future FLOODing ( 

From 2010: Collaboration within the IODP 318 'Wilkes Land Glacial History' Science Party ( 318/318title.htm)

2007-2012: Member of Working Group 4 (WG4) - COST Action ES0701 (European Science Foundation) titled 'Improved constraints on models of GIA'

2007-2012: Collaboration within the DynaQlim (Upper Mantle Dynamics and Quaternary Climate in Cratonic Areas), Regional Co-ordination committee of the International Lithosphere Program (ILP)

2007-2008: Collaboration in the Italian national MIUR PRIN2006 'Il ruolo del riaggiustamento isostatico postglaciale nelle variazioni di livello marino globale e mediterraneo: nuovi vincoli geofisici, geologici, ed archeologici' of Dr. Giorgio Spada (Università degli Studi di Urbino 'Carlo Bo')

2005-2008: Collaboration in the international project 'Towards a standard model of present-day signals due to post-glacial rebound', Special Bureau for Loading (SBL)

2004-2006: Collaboration in the Italian National Progetto Nazionale MIUR PRIN2004 'Variazioni globali di livello marino e riaggiustamento isostatico postglaciale: effetti delle proprietà reologiche del mantello terrestre sul tasso di incremento del livello marino attuale' of Dr. Giorgio Spada (Università degli Studi di Urbino 'Carlo Bo')