UM researcher proposes sea-level rise global observing system

University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science researcher Shane Elipot proposes a new approach to monitoring global sea-level rise. Using the existing NOAA Global Drifter Program array of roughly 1,200 buoys that drift freely with ocean currents, Elipot suggests adding additional instruments to record their height, or the “level of the sea” they ride on, to collect long-term data on the average sea levels across the world’s oceans.

Elipot’s research, published in the American Geophysical Union’s journal

Geophysical Research Letters,

demonstrates that if these current drifters recorded altitude and transmit that data along with their geographical positions every hour, scientists could better understand global and regional sea-level changes, especially the accelerating sea-level rise associated with climate change and global warming.

“Sea-level rise is a serious threat to our society, especially in coastal areas like Miami,” said Elipot, a research assistant professor of ocean sciences. “While tremendous advances have been made in understanding the exact causes of sea level, continuing and resilient monitoring of sea level is necessary for planning and management at local and global scales.”

Elipot has secured a research contract with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to conduct a pilot project to construct buoys that will record their heights as they drift. This pilot project will be conducted with colleagues from NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. These drifters will be built at Scripps and tested off both the UM Rosenstiel School and Scripps piers.


The study, titled “Measuring global mean sea level changes with surface drifting buoys,” was supported by National Science Foundation Grants No. 1459482 and No. 1851166.

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School

The University of Miami is one of the largest private research institutions in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, visit:





and Twitter @UMiamiRSMAS

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