Adapting to sea-level rise: Relative sea-level trends to 2100 for the united states Article

Nicholls, RJ, Leatherman, SP. (1996). Adapting to sea-level rise: Relative sea-level trends to 2100 for the united states . 24(4), 301-324. 10.1080/08920759609362298

cited authors

  • Nicholls, RJ; Leatherman, SP


  • Global sea levels have slowly risen during this century, and that rise is expected to accelerate in the coming century due to anthropogenic global warming. A total rise of up to 1 m is possible by the year 2100 (relative to 1990). To deal with this change, coastal managers require site-specific information on relative (i.e., local) changes in sea level to determine what might be threatened. Therefore as a first step, global sea-level rise scenarios need to be transformed into relative sea-level change scenarios which take account of local and regional factors, such as vertical land movements, in addition to global changes. Even present rates of relative sea-level rise have important long-term implications for coastal management—projecting existing trends predicts a relative sea-level rise from 1990 to 2100 of up to 0.4 m and 1.15 m for the Mid-Atlantic Region and Louisiana, respectively. Ignoring sea-level rise will lead to unwise decisions and increasing hazard with time. This article adapts the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) global scenarios for sea-level rise (Warrick et al., 1996) to three relative sea-level rise scenarios for the contiguous United States. These scenarios cover the period 1990 to 2100 and provide a basis to assess possible proactive measures for sea-level rise. However, they are subject to the same uncertainties as the global scenarios as most of the sea-level rise will occur decades into the future. When considering what should be done now in response to future sea-level rise, given these large uncertainties, it is best to identify (1) low-cost, no regret responses which would maintain or enhance the choices available to tomorrow's coastal managers; and (2) sectors where reactive adaptation would have particularly high costs and where allowance for future sea-level rise can be considered a worthwhile "insurance policy." Sea-level rise will impact an evolving coastal landscape which already is experiencing a range of other pressures. Therefore, to be most effective, responses to sea-level rise need to be integrated with all other planning occurring in the coastal zone. © 1996 Taylor & Francis.

publication date

  • January 1, 1996

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 301

end page

  • 324


  • 24


  • 4