Measuring global-mean sea-level rise with surface drifting buoys

Shane Elipot, Luca Centurioni, Bruce J. Haines, Rick Lumpkin, Josh K. Willis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose to establish a new ocean observing system for monitoring global and regional mean sea-level changes. This system will consist of a global array of thousands of water-following drifting buoys tracked by a global navigation satellite system—such as the Global Positioning System (GPS)—which will continuously provide the geographical positions and the height of the sea surface along the buoys’ trajectories. The sea-level height data collected in this way, averaged over regional basins and the global ocean, will provide daily measures of regional and global mean sea levels. An essential climate variable, mean sea level is an intrinsic measure of climate change, integrating the thermal expansion of the ocean’s waters and additions to the ocean’s mass from melting terrestrial ice. The realization of this new system requires that standardized vertical position measurements with controlled accuracy be acquired and regularly transmitted from relatively small and expendable drifting buoys, which constitutes a technological challenge, yet one with a clear path for being met. The development and implementation of this ocean shot concept will ultimately provide an independent, resilient, sustainable, and economical observational system to quantify natural and anthropogenic sea-level changes, augmenting the existing satellites and tide gauge observing systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-67
Number of pages2
JournalMarine Technology Society Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ocean Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Measuring global-mean sea-level rise with surface drifting buoys'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this