Climatic and socioeconomic controls of future coastal flood risk in Europe


Rising extreme sea levels (ESLs) and continued socioeconomic development in coastal zones will lead to increasing future flood risk along the European coastline. We present a comprehensive analysis of future coastal flood risk (CFR) for Europe that separates the impacts of global warming and socioeconomic development. In the absence of further investments in coastal adaptation, the present expected annual damage (EAD) of €1.25 billion is projected to increase by two to three orders of magnitude by the end of the century, ranging between 93 and €961 billion. The current expected annual number of people exposed (EAPE) to coastal flooding of 102,000 is projected to reach 1.52–3.65 million by the end of the century. Climate change is the main driver of the future rise in coastal flood losses, with the importance of coastward migration, urbanization and rising asset values rapidly declining with time. To keep future coastal flood losses constant relative to the size of the economy, flood defence structures need to be installed or reinforced to withstand increases in ESLs that range from 0.5 to 2.5 m.

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Fig. 1: Projected evolution of coastal flood impacts aggregated at European level.
Fig. 2: Relative contributions of climate and socioeconomic drivers to the projected changes in EAD as a percentage of GDP under the three scenarios.
Fig. 3: Relative contributions of physical drivers to the changes in projected EAD.
Fig. 4: Estimated rise in elevation of flood protection needed to keep EAD as a percentage of GDP to present day levels.


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The research that led to these results received funding from the EU Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013 under grant agreement no. 603864 (HELIX,, from DG CLIMA of the European Commission as part of the PESETA III project, as well as from the JRC of the European Commission as part of the CoastAlRisk project.

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M.V. and L.F. jointly conceived the study. M.V. and E.V. contributed with the storm surge projections and the tidal elevation projections, and L.M. and M.V. were responsible for the wave projections. M.V. and F.D. carried out the coastal flooding analysis, M.V. and L.F. carried out the impact assessment with the support of A.B., analysed the data and prepared the manuscript, and all the authors discussed results and implications, and commented on the manuscript at all stages.

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Correspondence to Michalis I. Vousdoukas.

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Vousdoukas, M.I., Mentaschi, L., Voukouvalas, E. et al. Climatic and socioeconomic controls of future coastal flood risk in Europe. Nature Clim Change 8, 776–780 (2018).

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