Rising sea levels amplify the threat and magnitude of storm surges in coastal areas. The U.S. east coast region north of Cape Hatteras has shown a significant sea level rise acceleration and is believed to be a “hot-spot” for accelerating tidal flooding. To better understand the forcing mechanism of long-term regional sea level change, in order to more efficiently implement local sea level rise adaptation and mitigation measures, this work investigated the teleconnections between low-frequency sea level variability in the coastal region north of Cape Hatteras and the subpolar/tropical North Atlantic Ocean by using tide gauge measurements, satellite altimetry data and a sea level reconstruction dataset. The correlation analysis demonstrates that the tide-gauge measured sea level variability in the area north of Cape Hatteras is highly and positively correlated with that observed by satellite altimetry in the subpolar and tropical North Atlantic between 1993 and 2002. Over the following decade (2003–2012), the phase of the teleconnection in the subpolar region was reversed and the spatio-temporal correlation in the tropical North Atlantic was enhanced. Furthermore, the positive correlation in the region north of Cape Hatteras’s near shore area is strengthened, while the negative correlation in the Gulf Stream front region is weakened. The North Atlantic Oscillation and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, which affect variations of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and Gulf Stream, were shown to have significant impacts on the decadal changes of the teleconnections. Coherent with satellite altimetry data, the reconstructed sea level dataset in the 20th century exhibits similar spatial correlation patterns with the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, North Atlantic Oscillation and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation indices.
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