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Doubling of coastal flooding frequency within decades due to sea-level rise

May 26, 2017

Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding. In most coastal regions, the amount of sea-level rise occurring over years to decades is significantly smaller than normal ocean-level fluctuations caused by tides, waves, and storm surge. However, even gradual sea-level rise can rapidly increase the frequency and severity of coastal flooding. So far, global-scale estimates of increased coastal flooding due to sea-level rise have not considered elevated water levels due to waves, and thus underestimate the potential impact. Here we use extreme value theory to combine sea-level projections with wave, tide, and storm surge models to estimate increases in coastal flooding on a continuous global scale. We find that regions with limited water-level variability, i.e., short-tailed flood-level distributions, located mainly in the Tropics, will experience the largest increases in flooding frequency. The 10 to 20 cm of sea-level rise expected no later than 2050 will more than double the frequency of extreme water-level events in the Tropics, impairing the developing economies of equatorial coastal cities and the habitability of low-lying Pacific island nations.

Publication Year 2017
Title Doubling of coastal flooding frequency within decades due to sea-level rise
DOI 10.1038/s41598-017-01362-7
Authors Sean Vitousek, Patrick L. Barnard, Charles H. Fletcher, Neil Frazer, Li H. Erikson, Curt D. Storlazzi
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Scientific Reports
Index ID 70187987
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center