Spatial and temporal variability of sea-level rise hotspots over the eastern United States
Regional sea-level rise (SLR) acceleration during the past few decades north of Cape Hatteras has commonly been attributed to weakening Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, although this causal link remains debated. In contrast to this pattern, we demonstrate that SLR decelerated north of Cape Hatteras and accelerated south of the Cape to >20 mm/yr, > 3 times the global mean values from 2011-2015. Tide gauge records reveal comparable short-lived, rapid SLR accelerations (hot spots) that have occurred repeatedly over ~1500-km stretches of the coastline during the past 95 years, with variable latitudinal position. Our analysis indicates that the cumulative (time-integrated) effects of the North Atlantic Oscillation determine the latitudinal position of these SLR hot spots, while a cumulative El Niño index is associated with their timing. The superposition of these two ocean-atmospheric processes accounts for 87% of the variance in the spatiotemporal pattern of sub-decadal sea-level oscillations.