Climate change has the potential to increase flooding by hurricane intensification (magnitude and intensity) and by sea level rise. Many communities around the world are already exposed to coastal flooding from tropical cyclones. How much will the changes associated with climate change enhanced coastal flooding? I know this is largely region specific, but I would like to know of studies that quantify these effects.


1 Answer 1


As you noted, the (predictions about) impacts of global climate change are region specific. The general reasoning behind predictions for many regions are similar however, as are some noteworthy bottom lines (such as increased exposure to flooding as your question focuses on), so I'll try to summarize those from rich and reliable sources.

The Maryland Sea Grant website states on its Storm Surges page:

As sea level rises, flooding due to storms will worsen so that homes and buildings already vulnerable to storm surges will sustain more damage. Powerful storms can damage dwellings or flood low-lying areas with high tides and wind-driven waves. Some Maryland neighborhoods could be underwater completely.


A special report, Come High Water: Sea Level Rise and Chesapeake Bay, offers a comprehensive look at the causes and consequences of increasing flooding along Maryland’s coasts. This package, produced by Maryland Sea Grant's magazine Chesapeake Quarterly in partnership with Bay Journal, examines the scientific understanding and projections of the rate of sea level rise in the Chesapeake region; effects on people and the environment; and adaptations and policy responses that are under way or under consideration. An online interactive page offers videos, photos, and an interactive map showing flooding that is predicted to occur.

The PDF of "Come High Water: Sea Level Rise and Chesapeake Bay" has more detailed explanations, data, and citations, and is available from that page.

On its Rising Sea Level page:

Scientists have forecasted an increase of as much as 2.1 feet in the Chesapeake Bay by 2050. And by the end of this century, that number could be 3.7 feet or higher. Scientists have identified several reasons, which are described in a video produced by Maryland Sea Grant (below):

  • As oceans around the world grow hotter, they also expand because of the chemistry of salt water.
  • Glaciers and ice caps, including the icy regions around Greenland, are melting.
  • Since the end of the last ice age, the land around Maryland has been naturally sinking a tiny bit each year — a trend that has accelerated over recent decades.

That article linked to where the above quote says "Scientists have forecasted..." has a worthwhile introduction to answer your question and provide context to the source:

State Should Consider Longevity of Structures Built Near Water, Report Says

Maryland residents should plan for the state’s coastal waters to rise by 2.1 feet by the year 2050 and by 3.7 feet or more by the century’s end, according to a new analysis by scientific experts prepared for Gov. Martin O’Malley. The panel reviewed recent evidence about sea level rise in Maryland and globally.

Based on your asking about specific studies that quantify these [climate change] effects: if you are interested in more detailed data and prediction methods, you can easily find various climate forecasting models if you search for them. One example is NARCCAP. It and many other climate forecasting models are public-domain but fairly technical. Another example is https://www.data.gov/climate/coastalflooding/

Many climate change impacts are predicted based on environmental models and the data sets they produce. For a glimpse at modeling efforts very relevant to your question, you could explore these papers:

The Hellegatte et al, 2010 paper is focused on economic analysis which you may be interested in:

For instance, the total losses (direct and indirect) caused by a present-day 100-year storm surge event, at 150 cm above normal sea level, are estimated to reach EUR 3 billion with no protection. In the aftermath of such an event, thousands of jobs would be lost and thousands would be created in the construction sector. Other types of impact have been disregarded here, but may also be important (e.g., casualties, illness, psychological trauma, disruption of social networks, loss of national competitive strength and market positions, loss of cultural heritage, city attractiveness, etc.). Even with the relatively narrow set of economic impacts considered here, the reconstruction process would last several years and cause a significant shock to the local and the national economy.

The Mousavi et al, 2009 paper provides specific predicted sea level rise quantities which may be more what you are after:

For the Corpus Christi, Texas, United States study region, mean projections indicate hurricane flood elevation (meteorologically generated storm surge plus sea level rise) will, on average, rise by 0.3 m by the 2030s and by 0.8 m by the 2080s. For catastrophic-type hurricane surge events, flood elevations are projected to rise by as much as 0.5 m and 1.8 m by the 2030s and 2080s, respectively.

Again there are many modeling/prediction and analysis efforts and varying scenarios for different regions. If you were more specific about the region and particular analysis you're interested in, folks could probably share more specific answers.

TL;DR: Sea level is predicted to rise due to climate change, to varying extents place-to-place, and that rise in sea level will increase the magnitude of damage many places are exposed to due to storms, which are also predicted to pose a more significant threat due to increased intensity and frequency.


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