Sea level rise and climate change

Sea level rise and climate change

Quick bibliography: Reviews/recent articles on sea level rise and climate change.

**Updated January 2021**

Classic reviews:

*Hallegatte, S., Green, C., Nicholls, R. J., & Corfee-Morlot, J. (2013). Future flood losses in major coastal cities. Nature Climate Change, 3(9), 802-806. [PDF] [Cited by]

Flood exposure is increasing in coastal cities owing to growing populations and assets, the changing climate, and subsidence. Average global flood losses in 2005 are estimated to be approximately US$6billion per year, increasing to US$52billion by 2050 with projected socio-economic change alone. With climate change and subsidence, present protection will need to be upgraded to avoid unacceptable losses of US$1trillion or more per year. Even if adaptation investments maintain constant flood probability, subsidence and sea-level rise will increase global flood losses to US$60-63billion per year in 2050. In this case, the magnitude of losses when floods do occur would increase, often by more than 50%, making it critical to also prepare for larger disasters than we experience today.”

*Sallenger, A. H., Doran, K. S., & Howd, P. A. (2012). Hotspot of accelerated sea-level rise on the Atlantic coast of North America. Nature Climate Change, 2(12), 884-888. [Cited by]

“Climate warming does not force sea-level rise (SLR) at the same rate everywhere. Here, we present evidence of recently accelerated SLR in a unique 1,000-km-long hotspot on the highly populated North American Atlantic coast north of Cape Hatteras and show that it is consistent with a modelled fingerprint of dynamic SLR. Between 1950-1979 and 1980-2009, SLR rate increases in this northeast hotspot were 3-4 times higher than the global average. Modelled dynamic plus steric SLR by 2100 at New York City ranges with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenario from 36 to 51 cm; lower emission scenarios project 24-36 cm. Extrapolations from data herein range from 20 to 29 cm. SLR superimposed on storm surge, wave run-up and set-up will increase the vulnerability of coastal cities to flooding, and beaches and wetlands to deterioration.”

Other reviews/articles:

*Moon, T. A., Overeem, I., Druckenmiller, M., Holland, M., Huntington, H., Kling, G., . . . Wong, G. (2019). The expanding footprint of rapid arctic change. Earth’s Future7(3), 212-218. [PDF] [Cited by]

Arctic land ice is melting, sea ice is decreasing, and permafrost is thawing. Changes in these Arctic elements are interconnected, and most interactions accelerate the rate of change. The changes affect infrastructure, economics, and cultures of people inside and outside of the Arctic, including in temperate and tropical regions, through sea level rise, worsening storm and hurricane impacts, and enhanced warming. Coastal communities worldwide are already experiencing more regular flooding, drinking water contamination, and coastal erosion. We describe and summarize the nature of change for Arctic permafrost, land ice, and sea ice, and its influences on lower latitudes, particularly the United States. We emphasize that impacts will worsen in the future unless individuals, businesses, communities, and policy makers proactively engage in mitigation and adaptation activities to reduce the effects of Arctic changes and safeguard people and society.”

*Mora, C., Spirandelli, D., Franklin, E. C., Lynham, J., Kantar, M. B., Miles, W., . . . Hunter, C. L. (2018). Broad threat to humanity from cumulative climate hazards intensified by greenhouse gas emissions. Nature Climate Change, 8(12), 1062-1071. [PDF] [Cited by]

“The ongoing emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is triggering changes in many climate hazards that can impact humanity. We found traceable evidence for 467 pathways by which human health, water, food, economy, infrastructure and security have been recently impacted by climate hazards such as warming, heatwaves, precipitation, drought, floods, fires, storms, sea-level rise and changes in natural land cover and ocean chemistry. By 2100, the world’s population will be exposed concurrently to the equivalent of the largest magnitude in one of these hazards if emissions are aggressively reduced, or three if they are not, with some tropical coastal areas facing up to six simultaneous hazards. These findings highlight the fact that GHG emissions pose a broad threat to humanity by intensifying multiple hazards to which humanity is vulnerable. ”

*Reguero, B. G., Beck, M. W., Bresch, D. N., Calil, J., & Meliane, I. (2018). Comparing the cost effectiveness of nature-based and coastal adaptation: A case study from the Gulf Coast of the United States. PLoS One, 13(4), e0192132.  [PDF] [Cited by]

“Coastal risks are increasing from both development and climate change. Interest is growing in the protective role that coastal nature-based measures (or green infrastructure), such as reefs and wetlands, can play in adapting to these risks. However, a lack of quantitative information on their relative costs and benefits is one principal factor limiting their use more broadly. These include nature-based (e.g. oyster reef restoration), structural or grey (e.g., seawalls) and policy measures (e.g. home elevation). We first find that coastal development will be a critical driver of risk, particularly for major disasters, but climate change will cause more recurrent losses through changes in storms and relative sea level rise. By 2030, flooding will cost $134–176.6 billion (for different economic growth scenarios), but as the effects of climate change, land subsidence and concentration of assets in the coastal zone increase, annualized risk will more than double by 2050 with respect to 2030. Nature-based adaptation options could avert more than $50 billion of these costs, and do so cost effectively with average benefit to cost ratios above 3.5. Wetland and oyster reef restoration are found to be particularly cost-effective. It also shows that investments in nature-based adaptation could meet multiple objectives for environmental restoration, adaptation and flood risk reduction.”

*Robinson, C., Dilkina, B., & Moreno-Cruz, J. (2020). Modeling migration patterns in the USA under sea level rise. PLoS One, 15(1), e0227436. [PDF] [Cited by] **New**

“Climate change is already affecting millions of people around the world. Human migration is a natural response to these climate change pressures, and is one of many adaptation measures that people will take in response to climate change.

Sea level rise in the United States will lead to large scale migration in the future. We propose a framework to examine future climate migration patterns using models of human migration. Our framework requires that we distinguish between historical versus climate driven migration and recognizes how the impacts of climate change can extend beyond the affected area. We apply our framework to simulate how migration, driven by sea level rise, differs from baseline migration patterns. Specifically, we couple a sea level rise model with a data-driven model of human migration and future population projections, creating a generalized joint model of climate driven migration that can be used to simulate population distributions under potential future sea level rise scenarios. The results of our case study suggest that the effects of sea level rise are pervasive, expanding beyond coastal areas via increased migration, and disproportionately affecting some areas of the United States.”

*Slangen, A. B. A., Church, J. A., Agosta, C., Fettweis, X., Marzeion, B., & Richter, K. (2016). Anthropogenic forcing dominates global mean sea-level rise since 1970. Nature Climate Change, 6(7), 701-705. [Cited by]

“Sea-level change is an important consequence of anthropogenic climate change, as higher sea levels increase the frequency of sea-level extremes and the impact of coastal flooding and erosion on the coastal environment, infrastructure and coastal communities. Anthropogenic forcing (primarily a balance between a positive sea-level contribution from greenhouse gases and a partially offsetting component from anthropogenic aerosols) explains only 15 plus or minus 55% of the observations before 1950, but increases to become the dominant contribution to sea-level rise after 1970 (69 plus or minus 31%), reaching 72 plus or minus 39% in 2000 (37 plus or minus 38% over the period 1900-2005).”

*Witze, A. (2018). The cruellest seas/Attack of the extreme floods. Nature, 555(7695), 156-158. [PDF] [Cited by]

Floods are going to become more frequent … But the analysis also revealed that the coasts of the contiguous United States will fare differently. In eastern cities such as New York City and Charleston, South Carolina, it is the nuisance flooding that will become more frequent. By contrast, western cities such as Seattle in Washington, and San Diego in California, should expect more-frequent flooding from extreme events. The west generally has steeper coastal slopes, which have tended to protect residents. But rising sea levels are providing oomph to surpass what had once been a protective barrier. The disparity between regions can be stark. If sea level rises by half a meter in Charleston, for instance, today’s 100-year flood could hit 16 times more often. In Seattle, the rate goes up to 335, making it more like a 4-month event.”

*Yin, J., Griffies, S. M., Winton, M., Zhao, M., & Zanna, L. (2020). Response of storm-related extreme sea level along the U.S. Atlantic coast to combined weather and climate forcing. Journal of Climate, 33(9), 3745-3769. [PDF] [Cited by] **New**

Storm surge and coastal flooding caused by tropical cyclones (hurricanes) and extratropical cyclones (nor’easters) pose a threat to communities along the Atlantic coast of the United States. Climate change and sea level rise are altering the statistics of these extreme events in a rather complex fashion. Here we use a fully coupled global weather/climate modeling system (GFDL CM4) to study characteristics of extreme daily sea level (ESL) along the U.S. Atlantic coast and their response to global warming. We find that under natural weather processes, the Gulf of Mexico coast is most vulnerable to storm surge and related ESL. New Orleans is a striking hotspot with the highest surge efficiency in response to storm winds. Under a 1% per year atmospheric CO2 increase on centennial time scales, the anthropogenic signal in ESL is robust along the U.S. East Coast. It can emerge from the background variability as soon as in 20 years, or even before global sea level rise is taken into account. The regional dynamic sea level rise induced by the weakening of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation facilitates this early emergence, especially during wintertime coastal flooding associated with nor’easters. Along the Gulf Coast, ESL is sensitive to the modification of hurricane characteristics under the CO2 forcing.”

For additional research about sea level rise, flooding, and climate change, please see the Science Primary Literature Database.

Questions?  Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu).

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