Future inundation of the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts will depend upon both sea-level rise and the intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones, each of which will be affected by climate change. In this proposal, we will employ new interdisciplinary approaches to bring about a step change in the reliability of predictions of such inundation.
The rate of sea-level rise along the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts has increased throughout the 20th century. Whilst there is widespread agreement that it continue to accelerate during the 21st century, great uncertainty surrounds its magnitude and geographic distribution. Key uncertainties include the role of continental ice sheets, mountain glaciers and ocean density changes. Insufficient understanding of these complex physical processes precludes accurate prediction of sea-level rise. New approaches using semi-empirical models that relate instrumental records of climate and sea-level rise have projected up to 2 m of sea-level rise by AD 2100. But the time span of instrumental sea-level records is insufficient to adequately constrain the climate:sea-level relationship. Therefore, we will produce new high resolution proxy data of sea-level and temperature to provide crucial additional constraints to such semi-empirical models. Our dataset will span the alternation between the “Medieval Climate Anomaly” and “Little Ice Age”. Before the models can provide appropriate data for coastal management and planning, they must be complemented with regional estimates of sea-level rise. Therefore, the proxy sea-level data will be collected from six study areas (Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia and Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida) to accommodate the required extent of regional variability.
In the case of inundation arising from tropical cyclones, the historical and observational records are insufficient for predicting their nature and recurrence, because they are such extreme and rare events. Moreover, in the future, the resultant storm surges will be superimposed on background sea-level rise. To overcome these problems, we will couple regional sea-level rise projections with hurricane simulations and storm surge models to map coastal inundation for the current climate and the best and worst case climate scenarios of the IPCC AR4.
The products of this proposal will raise the bar for the scientific prediction of region-specific inundation probabilities in terms of coordinated semi-empirical proxy data, hindcast- and forecast-driven sea-level modeling and tropical cyclone forecasting. To optimize transfer of this often complex information for effective adaptive decision-making by managers and planners, we will systematically review >800 adaptation reports and consult early and often with primary end- users to identify their exact needs. We will produce high penetration print and web products for diverse audiences, specific to each region.