Sea level at BODC

For the first post, we thought it’d be a good idea to say who we are and what we do.

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) is a national facility for managing data concerning the marine environment. We’re part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). NERC is the main UK agency for funding and managing environmental science research.

Our marine data management involves

  • Working alongside scientists during marine research projects
  • Quality controlling and archiving data
  • Distributing data to scientists, education, industry and the public

We deal with different data types (e.g. biological, chemical, physical, geophysical) from projects all over the world. One of the areas where we have a lot of expertise is in sea level data. We hold over 8000 site years of digital sea level data from 671 locations worldwide and have acted as the sea level data centre for several major sea level observing programmes.

We also curate digital data from the UK National Tide Gauge Network. The network consists of 43 tide gauges around the UK. It was set up in 1953 after storm surges caused severe flooding along the east coast of England. We’re responsible for quality controlling, archiving and distributing these data.

As well as this, we hold a very large archive of analogue sea level readings, in the form of paper charts, notebooks and microform negatives. These records contain observations from around the world.

Long-term sea level records are used in many areas, including:

  • Oceanography (ocean currents, tides, surges)
  • Geodesy (national datum),
  • Geophysics and geology (coastal land movements)
  • Climate studies (sea level rise)

Photo: page from Sheerness tide register

The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is currently underway. The science of climate prediction requires reliable long-term data to extrapolate from. This is one of the reasons why recovering unique and irreplaceable long-term climate records is crucial. As some records held at BODC go back over 100 years (in one case, as far back as 1832), it’s very important that we provide long-term care for our long-term records.


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