Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

NIOZ Sea Level Centre

Why sea-level research matters

Over 600 million people live and work at the coast. For these coastal regions, sea-level rise is one of the most important consequences of climate change. Research has shown that at least 70% of the observed sea-level rise is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

A wave breaks on the pier near Flushing in the Dutch Western Scheldt - CC: Gerwin Filius

In the Netherlands, about half of the land is located below sea level. We have a long history of keeping the water out, and are known all around the world for our flood-safety construction works. People all over the world need to prepare for future sea-level rise, particularly in low-lying countries and delta areas like the Netherlands.

Our research approach to changing sea levels

The sea level can be seen as a big thermometer, measuring the state of the climate system. The sea level changes, because of changes in the ocean, in the atmosphere, on the land and in the solid Earth. For this reason, at NIOZ we look at sea level from a large climate system point of view.

We work at better understanding regional sea-level changes in the past, on time scales of years, decades and centuries, to help prepare vulnerable coastal regions for future changes. We also work at getting better projections for the whole world, and in particular for the Dutch Delta and the Wadden Sea.

The effect on currents, sediments transport and deposition

We focus on the processes that determine sea level changes but that are also affected by sea level changes in a synergistic way. At the core of our approach is the coupling between the cryosphere, oceans, solid Earth and sediments. We aim at understanding how sea level changes affect tides, currents and ultimately sediments transport and deposition.  

Our ambition is to extend our work towards the consequences of sea level changes on the biological and ecological components and to investigate their feedback with the coastal geomorphology. For this reason we invest time in studying sea level changes in the geological past where data and models can provide constraints for future scenarios.

Collaboration on a national level

We aim to strengthen the collaboration on a national level, bringing together researchers from various institutes where sea level change is being studied, and we regularly organize workshops and symposia to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and the initiation of common research projects.