Articles | Volume 11, issue 4
Research article
04 Aug 2015
Research article |  | 04 Aug 2015

Sea level trend and variability around Peninsular Malaysia

Q. H. Luu, P. Tkalich, and T. W. Tay

Abstract. Sea level rise due to climate change is non-uniform globally, necessitating regional estimates. Peninsular Malaysia is located in the middle of Southeast Asia, bounded from the west by the Malacca Strait, from the east by the South China Sea (SCS), and from the south by the Singapore Strait. The sea level along the peninsula may be influenced by various regional phenomena native to the adjacent parts of the Indian and Pacific oceans. To examine the variability and trend of sea level around the peninsula, tide gauge records and satellite altimetry are analyzed taking into account vertical land movements (VLMs).

At annual scale, sea level anomalies (SLAs) around Peninsular Malaysia on the order of 5–25 cm are mainly monsoon driven. Sea levels at eastern and western coasts respond differently to the Asian monsoon: two peaks per year in the Malacca Strait due to South Asian–Indian monsoon; an annual cycle in the remaining region mostly due to the East Asian–western Pacific monsoon. At interannual scale, regional sea level variability in the range of ±6 cm is correlated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). SLAs in the Malacca Strait side are further correlated with the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) in the range of ±5 cm. Interannual regional sea level falls are associated with El Niño events and positive phases of IOD, whilst rises are correlated with La Niña episodes and negative values of the IOD index. At seasonal to interannual scales, we observe the separation of the sea level patterns in the Singapore Strait, between the Raffles Lighthouse and Tanjong Pagar tide stations, likely caused by a dynamic constriction in the narrowest part.

During the observation period 1986–2013, average relative rates of sea level rise derived from tide gauges in Malacca Strait and along the east coast of the peninsula are 3.6±1.6 and 3.7±1.1 mm yr−1, respectively. Correcting for respective VLMs (0.8±2.6 and 0.9±2.2 mm yr−1), their corresponding geocentric sea level rise rates are estimated at 4.4±3.1 and 4.6±2.5 mm yr−1. The geocentric rates are about 25 % faster than those measured at tide gauges around the peninsula; however, the level of uncertainty associated with VLM data is relatively high. For the common period between 1993 and 2009, geocentric sea level rise values along the Malaysian coast are similar from tide gauge records and satellite altimetry (3.1 and 2.7 mm yr−1, respectively), and arguably correspond to the global trend.