In order to assess future sea level rise and its societal impacts, we need to study climate change pathways combined with different scenarios of socioeconomic development. Here, we present sea level rise (SLR) projections for the Shared Socioeconomic Pathway (SSP) storylines and different year-2100 radiative forcing targets (FTs). Future SLR is estimated with a comprehensive SLR emulator that accounts for Antarctic rapid discharge from hydrofracturing and ice cliff instability. Across all baseline scenario realizations (no dedicated climate mitigation), we find 2100 median SLR relative to 1986–2005 of 89 cm (likely range: 57–130 cm) for SSP1, 105 cm (73–150 cm) for SSP2, 105 cm (75–147 cm) for SSP3, 93 cm (63–133 cm) for SSP4, and 132 cm (95–189 cm) for SSP5. The 2100 sea level responses for combined SSP-FT scenarios are dominated by the mitigation targets and yield median estimates of 52 cm (34–75 cm) for FT 2.6 Wm−2, 62 cm (40–96 cm) for FT 3.4 Wm−2, 75 cm (47–113 cm) for FT 4.5 Wm−2, and 91 cm (61–132 cm) for FT 6.0 Wm−2. Average 2081–2100 annual SLR rates are 5 mm yr−1 and 19 mm yr−1 for FT 2.6 Wm−2 and the baseline scenarios, respectively. Our model setup allows linking scenario-specific emission and socioeconomic indicators to projected SLR. We find that 2100 median SSP SLR projections could be limited to around 50 cm if 2050 cumulative CO2 emissions since pre-industrial stay below 850 GtC, with a global coal phase-out nearly completed by that time. For SSP mitigation scenarios, a 2050 carbon price of 100 US$2005 tCO2 −1 would correspond to a median 2100 SLR of around 65 cm. Our results confirm that rapid and early emission reductions are essential for limiting 2100 SLR.
Sea-level Rise, Coastal Flooding, and Storm Events
Fossil coral reefs are valuable recorders of glacio-eustatic sea-level changes, as they provide key temporal information on deglacial meltwater pulses (MWPs). The timing, rate, magnitude, and meltwater source of these sea-level episodes remain controversial, despite their importance for understanding ocean-ice sheet dynamics during periods of abrupt climatic change. This study revisits the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii to investigate the timing of the −150 m H1d terrace drowning off Kawaihae in response to MWP-1A. We present eight new calibrated 14C-AMS ages, which constrain the timing of terrace drowning to at or after 14.75 + 0.33/-0.42 kyr BP, coeval with the age of reef drowning at Kealakekua Bay (U-Th age 14.72 ± 0.10 kyr BP), 70 kms south along the west coast. Integrating the chronology with high-resolution bathymetry and backscatter data, detailed sedimentological analysis, and paleoenvironmental interpretation, we conclude the H1d terrace drowned at the same time along the west coast of Hawaii in response to MWP-1A. The timing of H1d reef drowning is within the reported uncertainty of the timing of MWP-1A interpreted from the IODP Expedition 310 Tahitian reef record.
Coastal wetland responses to sea-level rise are greatly influenced by biogeomorphic processes that affect wetland surface elevation. Small changes in elevation relative to sea level can lead to comparatively large changes in ecosystem structure, function, and stability. The surface elevation table-marker horizon (SET-MH) approach is being used globally to quantify the relative contributions of processes affecting wetland elevation change. Historically, SET-MH measurements have been obtained at local scales to address site-specific research questions. However, in the face of accelerated sea-level rise, there is an increasing need for elevation change network data that can be incorporated into regional ecological models and vulnerability assessments. In particular, there is a need for long-term, high-temporal resolution data that are strategically distributed across ecologically-relevant abiotic gradients. Here, we quantify the distribution of SET-MH stations along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast (USA) across political boundaries (states), wetland habitats, and ecologically-relevant abiotic gradients (i.e., gradients in temperature, precipitation, elevation, and relative sea-level rise). Our analyses identify areas with high SET-MH station densities as well as areas with notable gaps. Salt marshes, intermediate elevations, and colder areas with high rainfall have a high number of stations, while salt flat ecosystems, certain elevation zones, the mangrove-marsh ecotone, and hypersaline coastal areas with low rainfall have fewer stations. Due to rapid rates of wetland loss and relative sea-level rise, the state of Louisiana has the most extensive SET-MH station network in the region, and we provide several recent examples where data from Louisiana’s network have been used to assess and compare wetland vulnerability to sea-level rise. Our findings represent the first attempt to examine spatial gaps in SET-MH coverage across abiotic gradients. Our analyses can be used to transform a broadly disseminated and unplanned collection of SET-MH stations into a coordinated and strategic regional network. This regional network would provide data for predicting and preparing for the responses of coastal wetlands to accelerated sea-level rise and other aspects of global change.
Sea level rise exhibits significant regional differences. Based on Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) models, sea level projections have been produced for the Australian region by taking account of regional dynamic changes, ocean thermal expansion, mass loss of glaciers, changes in Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and land water storage, and glacial isostatic adjustment. However, these regional projections have a coarse resolution (~100 km), while coastal adaptation planners demand finer scale information at the coast. To address this need, a 1/10° near-global ocean model driven by ensemble average forcings from 17 CMIP5 models is used to downscale future climate. We produce high-resolution sea level projections by combining downscaled dynamic sea level with other contributions. Off the southeast coast, dynamic downscaling provides better representation of high sea level projections associated with gyre circulation and boundary current changes. The high-resolution sea level projection should be a valuable product for detailed coastal adaptation planning.
Climate changes projected for 2100 and beyond could result in a worldwide race for adaptation resources on a scale never seen before. This paper describes a model for estimating the cost and materials of elevating coastal seaport infrastructure in the United States to prevent damage from sea level rise associated with climate change. This study pilots the use of a generic port model (GenPort) as a basis from which to estimate regional materials and monetary demands, resulting in projections that would be infeasible to calculate on an individual port-by-port basis. We estimate the combined cost of adding two meters of additional fill material to elevate the working surface and then reconstructing the generic port. We use the resulting unit area cost to develop an estimate to elevate and retrofit 100 major United States commercial coastal ports. A total of $57 billion to $78 billion (2012 US dollars) and 704 million cubic meters of fill would be required to elevate the 100 ports by two meters and to reconstruct associated infrastructure. This estimation method and the results serve as a thought exercise to provoke considerations of the cumulative monetary and material demands of widespread adaptations of seaport infrastructure. The model can be adapted for use in multiple infrastructure sectors and coastal managers can use the outlined considerations as a basis for individual port adaptation strategy assessments.
Mass changes of ice sheets, glaciers and ice caps, land water hydrology, atmosphere, and ocean cause a nonuniform sea level rise due to the self-attraction and loading effects called sea level fingerprints (SLF). SLF have been previously derived from a combination of modeled and observed mass fluxes from the continents into the ocean. Here we derive improved SLF from time series of time variable gravity data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission for April 2002 to October 2014. We evaluate the GRACE-derived SLF using ocean bottom pressure (OBP) data from stations in the tropics, where OBP errors are the lowest. We detect the annual phase of the SLF in the OBP signal and separate it unambiguously from the barystatic sea level (BSL) at two stations. At the basin scale, the SLF explain a larger fraction of the variance in steric-corrected altimetry than the BSL, which has implications for evaluating mass transport between ocean basins.
Sea level rise (SLR), a well-documented and urgent aspect of anthropogenic global warming, threatens population and assets located in low-lying coastal regions all around the world. Common flood hazard assessment practices typically account for one driver at a time (e.g., either fluvial flooding only or ocean flooding only), whereas coastal cities vulnerable to SLR are at risk for flooding from multiple drivers (e.g., extreme coastal high tide, storm surge, and river flow). Here, we propose a bivariate flood hazard assessment approach that accounts for compound flooding from river flow and coastal water level, and we show that a univariate approach may not appropriately characterize the flood hazard if there are compounding effects. Using copulas and bivariate dependence analysis, we also quantify the increases in failure probabilities for 2030 and 2050 caused by SLR under representative concentration pathways 4.5 and 8.5. Additionally, the increase in failure probability is shown to be strongly affected by compounding effects. The proposed failure probability method offers an innovative tool for assessing compounding flood hazards in a warming climate.
The future rate and extent of sea level rise are highly uncertain, and responses to higher water levels will need to reflect this uncertainty. Sea level rise was a major topic of the annual meeting of the National Academy of Engineering on October 9–10, 2016, and the second day featured a forum on adaptation to it. This summary of the forum, which also incorporates material from Robert J. Nicholls’ plenary presentation, outlines a rich and challenging set of problems for engineers, scientists, and those who work with them.
If saltwater regularly soaked your basement or first floor, kept you from getting to work, or damaged your car, how often would it have to happen before you began looking for a new place to call home?
This national analysis identifies when US coastal communities will face a level of disruptive flooding that affects people's homes, daily routines, and livelihoods. It identifies hundreds of communities that will face chronic inundation and possible retreat over the coming decades as sea levels rise.
The findings highlight what’s at stake in our fight to address sea level rise and global warming. They also provide affected communities a measure of how much time they have to prepare.
Regional sea-level rise (SLR) acceleration during the past few decades north of Cape Hatteras has commonly been attributed to weakening Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, although this causal link remains debated. In contrast to this pattern, we demonstrate that SLR decelerated north of Cape Hatteras and accelerated south of the Cape to >20 mm/yr, > 3 times the global mean values from 2011-2015. Tide gauge records reveal comparable short-lived, rapid SLR accelerations (hot spots) that have occurred repeatedly over ~1500-km stretches of the coastline during the past 95 years, with variable latitudinal position. Our analysis indicates that the cumulative (time-integrated) effects of the North Atlantic Oscillation determine the latitudinal position of these SLR hot spots, while a cumulative El Niño index is associated with their timing. The superposition of these two ocean-atmospheric processes accounts for 87% of the variance in the spatiotemporal pattern of sub-decadal sea-level oscillations.