Philip L Woodworth

A meeting dedicated to UK Sea Level Science was held on 16–17 February 2004 at the Royal Society. It was supported by the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (POL) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and was attended by many of the UK's sea-level scientists, together with a number of invited experts from abroad.

The first aim of the meeting was to launch the UK National Tidal and Sea Level Facility (NTSLF), the work of which at POL and at the British Oceanographic Data Centre is funded in large part by Defra. The NTSLF is responsible for the continuous monitoring of sea-levels around our coasts by the National Tide Gauge Network, for the efficient acquisition, quality control and distribution of data from the network, for the design and operation of a national network for land level monitoring in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, and for the development and maintenance of the storm surge and tide models which are used by the Storm Tide Forecasting Service at the Met Office.

A second aim of the meeting was to enjoy a ‘Celebration of UK Sea Level Science’. The UK has a large, extended Sea Level Science community, with wide expertise encompassing themes such as climate change, oceanography, glaciology, geology, geodesy, coastal engineering and the socio-economics of coastal zones. As there had been no major UK meeting for some years which brought together scientists from the many different themes, we took the opportunity of holding one alongside the NTSLF launch.

The lead speaker was Prof. John Lawton, Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council, of which POL is a component, who presented an overview of Earth System Science, placing sea-level change in a wider environmental context. He was followed over the next two days by over 35 speakers and poster presenters (see for details). Most contributors agreed to provide papers for the present volume.

An invited speaker was Dr Christian Le Provost, former Director of the Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiale (LEGOS), Toulouse, who presented the topic of sea-level observations within operational oceanography. Christian died two weeks after the meeting. He was one of the world's foremost ocean tide modellers and a leader of a number of oceanographic and Earth observation programmes. He had recently become Chairman of the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS). He was also a good friend to his many colleagues in the UK. I am delighted that a paper related to Christian's presentation has been written by his co-workers and is included in this volume.

These papers cannot cover the full range of UK Sea Level Science but they do provide a good sampling. It is important to realize that the bulk of them present original research and are not review papers. No doubt their authors would be pleased to provide interested readers with additional references on their areas of work.