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Coastal flooding by tropical cyclones and sea-level rise

Abstract

The future impacts of climate change on landfalling tropical cyclones are unclear. Regardless of this uncertainty, flooding by tropical cyclones will increase as a result of accelerated sea-level rise. Under similar rates of rapid sea-level rise during the early Holocene epoch most low-lying sedimentary coastlines were generally much less resilient to storm impacts. Society must learn to live with a rapidly evolving shoreline that is increasingly prone to flooding from tropical cyclones. These impacts can be mitigated partly with adaptive strategies, which include careful stewardship of sediments and reductions in human-induced land subsidence.

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Figure 1: Global tropical cyclone activity for the period 1981–2010.
Figure 2: Global sea-level trends.
Figure 3: Coastlines with broad low-lying elevations and shallow abutting bathymetry.
Figure 4: Mean global sea level along with patterns and extent of preserved sedimentary records of tropical cyclone activity following the most recent glacial maximum.

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Acknowledgements

We wish to thank our colleagues for the many comments and suggestions that improved this manuscript, as well as thoughtful discussions at the 2013 Joint AGU/GSA Conference on 'Coastal Processes and Environments Under Sea-Level Rise and Changing Climate: Science to Inform Management'. J.D.W. is funded through the US National Science Foundation (NSF, grant number EAR-1158780 and EAR-1148244), the Risk Prediction Initiative at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (grant number RPI11-1-001/11-5110), and the Hudson River Foundation. S.J.C. acknowledges funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, grant number NA11OAR4310093 and NA10OAR4310124) and NSF (grant number AGS-1143959 and AGS-1064081). J.L.I. received funding for this work through NOAA's National Sea Grant College Program (grant number 24036078) and the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (grant number 24036078). The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of any of these organizations.

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Woodruff, J., Irish, J. & Camargo, S. Coastal flooding by tropical cyclones and sea-level rise. Nature 504, 44–52 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12855

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