Letter | Published:

Evaluation of dynamic coastal response to sea-level rise modifies inundation likelihood

Nature Climate Change volume 6, pages 696700 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

Sea-level rise (SLR) poses a range of threats to natural and built environments1,2, making assessments of SLR-induced hazards essential for informed decision making3. We develop a probabilistic model that evaluates the likelihood that an area will inundate (flood) or dynamically respond (adapt) to SLR. The broad-area applicability of the approach is demonstrated by producing 30 × 30 m resolution predictions for more than 38,000 km2 of diverse coastal landscape in the northeastern United States. Probabilistic SLR projections, coastal elevation and vertical land movement are used to estimate likely future inundation levels. Then, conditioned on future inundation levels and the current land-cover type, we evaluate the likelihood of dynamic response versus inundation. We find that nearly 70% of this coastal landscape has some capacity to respond dynamically to SLR, and we show that inundation models over-predict land likely to submerge. This approach is well suited to guiding coastal resource management decisions that weigh future SLR impacts and uncertainty against ecological targets and economic constraints.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    et al. in Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment (eds Melillo, J. M., Richmond, T. C. & Yohe, G. W.) 371–395 (US Global Change Research Program, 2014).

  2. 2.

    et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) 361–409 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).

  3. 3.

    , , & Tidally adjusted estimates of topographic vulnerability to sea level rise and flooding for the contiguous US. Environ. Res. Lett. 7, 014033 (2012).

  4. 4.

    et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) 1137–1216 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).

  5. 5.

    & From the extreme to the mean: Acceleration and tipping points of coastal inundation from sea level rise. Earth’s Future 2, 579–600 (2014).

  6. 6.

    et al. A Bayesian network approach to predicting nest presence of the federally-threatened piping plover (Charadrius melodus) using barrier island features. Ecol. Modelling 276, 38–50 (2014).

  7. 7.

    , & Scenario planning: a tool for conservation in an uncertain world. Conserv. Biol. 17, 358–366 (2003).

  8. 8.

    Analysis of Lidar elevation data for improved identification and delineation of lands vulnerable to sea-level rise. J. Coast. Res. 53, 49–58 (2009).

  9. 9.

    et al. Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the US National Climate Assessment (NOAA Tech Memo OAR CPO-1, 2012).

  10. 10.

    et al. Limits on the adaptability of coastal marshes to rising sea-level. Geophys. Res. Lett. 37, L23401 (2010).

  11. 11.

    , & Simulation of large-scale coastal change using a morphological behavior model. Mar. Geol. 126, 45–61 (1995).

  12. 12.

    , & Estimating coastal recession due to sea level rise: beyond the Bruun Rule. Climatic Change 110, 561–574 (2012).

  13. 13.

    et al. Moving from deterministic towards probabilistic coastal hazard and risk assessment: development of a modelling framework and application to Narrabeen Beach, New South Wales, Australia. Coast. Eng. 96, 92–99 (2015).

  14. 14.

    National Research Council Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment (The National Academies, 2009).

  15. 15.

    et al. Probabilistic 21st and 22nd century sea-level projections at a global network of tide-gauge sites. Earth’s Future 2, 383–406 (2014).

  16. 16.

    et al. in Proc. 2011 Solutions Coast. Disast. Conf. (eds Wallendorv, L., Jones, C., Ewing, L. & Battalio, R.) 474–490 (American Society of Civil Engineers, 2011).

  17. 17.

    et al. in Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region. A report by the US Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research (ed. Titus, J. G.) 57–72 (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2009).

  18. 18.

    Coastal forest tree populations in a changing environment, Southeastern Long Island, New York. Ecol. Monogr. 56, 259–277 (1986).

  19. 19.

    , & in Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region. A report by the US Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research (ed. Titus, J. G.) 43–56 (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2009).

  20. 20.

    & An expert judgment assessment of future sea-level rise from the ice sheets. Nature Clim. Change 3, 424–427 (2013).

  21. 21.

    , , & Expert assessment of sea-level rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300. Quat. Sci. Rev. 84, 1–6 (2014).

  22. 22.

    et al. Evaluating the Coastal Landscape Response to Sea-Level Rise for the Northeastern US: Approach and Methods Open-File Report 2014-1252 (US Geological Survey, 2015).

  23. 23.

    et al. Guidance Note for Lead Authors of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report on Consistent Treatment of Uncertainties (IPCC, 2010).

  24. 24.

    et al. Oceanic forcing of ice-sheet retreat: west Antarctica and more. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 43, 207–231 (2015).

  25. 25.

    et al. Tropical cyclones and climate change. Nature Geosci. 3, 157–163 (2010).

  26. 26.

    & Probabilistic prediction of barrier-island response to hurricanes. J. Geophys. Res. 117, F03015 (2012).

  27. 27.

    , & A Bayesian network to predict the coastal vulnerability to sea-level rise. J. Geophys. Res. 116, F02009 (2011).

  28. 28.

    et al. The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment. Nature 463, 747–756 (2010).

  29. 29.

    et al. New York City Panel on Climate Change 2015 Report Chapter 2: Sea Level Rise and Coastal Storms. Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 1336, 36–44 (2015).

  30. 30.

    , & An overview of CMIP5 and the experiment design. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 93, 485–498 (2012).

  31. 31.

    , & Past and future sea-level change from the surface mass balance of glaciers. Cryosphere 6, 1295–1322 (2012).

  32. 32.

    et al. Regional and global projections of twenty-first century glacier mass changes in response to climate scenarios from global climate models. Clim. Dynam. 42, 37–58 (2013).

  33. 33.

    et al. Observation of glacial isostatic adjustment in ‘stable’ North America with GPS. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L02306 (2007).

  34. 34.

    , & Estimating Vertical Land Motion from Long-Term Tide Gauge Records Technical Report NOS CO-OPS 065 (US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, 2013).

  35. 35.

    in Digital Elevation Model Technologies and Applications: The DEM User’s Manual 2nd edn (ed. Maune, D.) 99–118 (American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 2007).

Download references

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the US Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Geology Program, the Department of the Interior Northeast Climate Science Center, and the US Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources under the Responses to Climate Change Program. We thank B. Strauss at Climate Central’s Surging Seas project for permission to use their base map in Fig. 2, and C. Ruppel and M. Gonneea for early reviews and discussion of this manuscript. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. US Geological Survey, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

    • Erika E. Lentz
    • , E. Robert Thieler
    •  & Sawyer R. Stippa
  2. US Geological Survey, St Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA

    • Nathaniel G. Plant
  3. Center for Climate Systems Research, The Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, New York 10025, USA

    • Radley M. Horton
  4. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York 10025, USA

    • Radley M. Horton
  5. US Geological Survey, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57030, USA

    • Dean B. Gesch

Authors

  1. Search for Erika E. Lentz in:

  2. Search for E. Robert Thieler in:

  3. Search for Nathaniel G. Plant in:

  4. Search for Sawyer R. Stippa in:

  5. Search for Radley M. Horton in:

  6. Search for Dean B. Gesch in:

Contributions

E.R.T. and N.G.P. developed the concept; E.E.L., N.G.P. and E.R.T. conceptualized and designed the model; N.G.P. built the model; E.E.L. and S.R.S. performed the model runs; E.E.L. assessed and analysed the data; R.M.H. contributed the SLR projections; D.B.J. contributed regional elevation data; E.E.L., E.R.T. and N.G.P. co-wrote the paper with input from all co-authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Erika E. Lentz.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Information

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2957

Further reading