The reliance upon and importance of climate models continues to grow in line with strengthening evidence of a changing climate system and the necessity to provide credible projections for risk assessment to guide policy development, mitigation and adaptation responses. The utility of the models to project regional rates of sea-level rise over the course of the 21st century is reliant on evaluating model outputs against global observational data (principally altimetry products). This study compares rates of sea-level rise from observational data records (tide gauges) against the ensemble mean of the model-projection products used in AR5 at 19 sites around the world over the decade of common data coverage (2007–2016) using enhanced time-series analysis techniques. Although it could be concluded that the observational and model-projected average velocity agree (95% confidence level (CL)), error margins are comparatively wide, masking the fact that the mean velocity for the model-projection products exceed observational records for nearly all stations and Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) experiments, and are likely in the range of 1.6–2.5 mm/year. The analysis might provide an early warning sign that the evaluation of ocean model components with respect to projected mean sea level could be relevantly improved.
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