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Chapter 12: Sea Level RiseGlobal mean sea level (GMSL) has risen by about 7-8 inches (about 16-21 cm) since 1900, with about 3 of those inches (about 7 cm) occurring since 1993. Human-caused climate change has made a substantial contribution to GMSL rise since 1900, contributing to a rate of rise that is greater than during any preceding century in at least 2,800 years. Relative to the year 2000, GMSL is very likely to rise by 0.3-0.6 feet (9-18 cm) by 2030, 0.5-1.2 feet (15-38 cm) by 2050, and 1.0-4.3 feet (30-130 cm) by 2100. Future pathways have little effect on projected GMSL rise in the first half of the century, but significantly affect projections for the second half of the century. Emerging science regarding Antarctic ice sheet stability suggests that, for high emission scenarios, a GMSL rise exceeding 8 feet (2.4 m) by 2100 is physically possible, although the probability of such an extreme outcome cannot currently be assessed. Regardless of pathway, it is extremely likely that GMSL rise will continue beyond 2100. Relative sea level (RSL) rise in this century will vary along U.S. coastlines due, in part, to changes in Earth's gravitational field and rotation from melting of land ice, changes in ocean circulation, and vertical land motion (very high confidence). For almost all future GMSL rise scenarios, RSL rise is likely to be greater than the global average in the U.S. Northeast and the western Gulf of Mexico. In intermediate and low GMSL rise scenarios, RSL rise is likely to be less than the global average in much of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. For high GMSL rise scenarios, RSL rise is likely to be higher than the global average along all U.S. coastlines outside Alaska. Almost all U.S. coastlines experience more than global mean sea level rise in response to Antarctic ice loss, and thus would be particularly affected under extreme GMSL rise scenarios involving substantial Antarctic mass loss. As sea levels have risen, the number of tidal floods each year that cause minor impacts (also called "nuisance floods") have increased 5- to 10-fold since the 1960s in several U.S. coastal cities. Rates of increase are accelerating in over 25 Atlantic and Gulf Coast cities. Tidal flooding will continue increasing in depth, frequency, and extent this century. Assuming storm characteristics do not change, sea level rise will increase the frequency and extent of extreme flooding associated with coastal storms, such as hurricanes and nor'easters. A projected increase in the intensity of hurricanes in the North Atlantic could increase the probability of extreme flooding along most of the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coast states beyond what would be projected based solely on RSL rise. However, there is low confidence in the projected increase in frequency of intense Atlantic hurricanes, and the associated flood risk amplification and flood effects could be offset or amplified by such factors as changes in overall storm frequency or tracks.
Document ID
Document Type
Book Chapter
External Source(s)
Sweet, W. V.
(National Ocean Service Rockville, MD, United States)
Horton, R.
(Columbia Univ. New York, NY, United States)
Kopp, R. E.
(Rutgers Univ. New Brunswick, NJ, United States)
LeGrande, A. N.
(NASA Goddard Inst. for Space Studies New York, NY, United States)
Romanou, A.
(Columbia Univ. New York, NY, United States)
Date Acquired
February 20, 2018
Publication Date
January 1, 2017
Publication Information
Publication: Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment
Publisher: U.S. Global Change Research Program
Volume: I
Subject Category
Meteorology And Climatology
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Use by or on behalf of the US Gov. Permitted.
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