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

TitleEvaluation of dynamic coastal response to sea-level rise modifies inundation likelihood
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsLentz, Erika E., E. Thieler Robert, Plant Nathaniel G., Stippa Sawyer R., Horton Radley M., and Gesch Dean B.
JournalNature Climate Change
Keywordsclimate, climate-change ecology, climate-change impacts, Projection and prediction, sea level rise

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.