Analyses of the progressive multidecadal trends and climate-controlled annual variations in mean sea levels are presented for nine tide-gauge stations along the coast of the U.S. Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. The trends in relative sea levels are strongly affected by the tectonics of this region, characterized by significant alongcoast variations in changing land elevations measured by benchmarks and global positioning system data. These combined data sets document the existence of both submergent and emergent stretches of shore. The Pacific Northwest sea levels are also affected by variations in the monthly mean seasonal cycles, with its extreme water levels occurring in the winter during strong El Niños. To quantify this climate control and to derive improved multidecadal sea-level trends, separate evaluations of the winter and summer-averaged measured water levels have been undertaken. The resulting pair of linear regressions for each tide gauge shows a consistent difference in the mean water levels over the years, at their highest during the winters, reflecting the total magnitude in the seasonal cycle of water levels. Of importance, the degree of scatter in the summer averages is reduced compared with the annual averages, yielding sea-level trends that generally have the highest statistical significance. In contrast, the winter records emphasize the extreme water levels associated with strong El Niños, yielding a predictive correlation with the Multivariate El Niño/Southern Oscillation Index. Both trends in relative sea levels and extremes in the winter monthly elevations produced by El Niños are important to the Pacific Northwest coastal hazard assessments, combining with the multidecade increase in wave heights measured by buoys. With these multiple processes and their climate controls, the erosion hazards are projected to significantly increase in future decades.
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Vol. 27 • No. 5