The model's predictions for 2100 are three times higher than the estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"If you look at the IPCC report, you will find information for the last 50-100 years and information on a geological scale but little for the last couple of thousand years," said Svetlana Jevrejeva of the Proudman Oceanogaphic Laboratory. "That's why we decided to carry out this analysis."

Observations are available for the last 100 years or so from tide gauges, while satellites have been taking sea level data since 1982. The larger sea level changes that occurred before around 8000 years ago have left information in sediment records, but the stability of sea level itself over the last 2000 years has created a paucity of data.

Jevrejeva and colleagues John Moore of the University of Oulu, and Aslak Grinsted of the University of Lapland employed a four parameter response equation that used geological evidence, observed temperature data and proxy temperature data.

The analysis came up with present day sea levels that were in good agreement with tide gauge and satellite observations. It also predicted sea level rises of 2 cm for the 18th Century, 6 cm for the 19th Century and 19 cm for the 20th Century, all of which tally with observations and confirm that the model is working, says Jevrejeva.

"The rapid rate of sea level rise will be associated with melting ice sheets," she added.

Commenting on Jevrejeva's work, Simon Holgate of the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory said: "There is a strong sense in the community that the IPCC numbers are underestimates. The models don't take ice sheet melting into account."

Jevrejeva and colleagues’ research indicates a sea level global temperature response time of around 250 years. The team says this is a significantly faster response than many models but is consistent with recent observations of rapid ice sheet dynamic response to warming.

The scientists reported their work at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2008 in Vienna, Austria. They have submitted a paper on their model to PNAS.

• A session on sea level rise was held at the assembly to mark the 75th anniversary of the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL), a network of around 2000 tide gauges worldwide. Although initially set up to measure land movement, the service has become vitally important for monitoring sea level changes and for calibrating data on sea level rise from satellites. The PSMSL is currently installing additional tide gauges around the coast of Africa and developing a tsunami warning system for three additional regions, including the Indian Ocean.