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2022 Sea Level Rise Technical Report

Updated projections available through 2150 for all U.S. coastal waters.

The Sea Level Rise Technical Report provides the most up-to-date sea level rise projections available for all U.S. states and territories; decision-makers will look to it for information.

This multi-agency effort, representing the first update since 2017, offers projections out to the year 2150 and information to help communities assess potential changes in average tide heights and height-specific threshold frequencies as they strive to adapt to sea level rise.

The technical report is the latest product of the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flood Hazard and Tools Interagency Task Force. Twenty-three co-authors contributed to the development of the report, representing senior scientists and experts from academic institutions and the following agencies:

Additional support was provided by the Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program.

Coming soon: Convened by NOAA, a team of extension and engagement professionals with expertise on applying sea level rise to local level planning will be releasing a guide on applying and integrating the report into local planning and adaptation decisions.

Four key takeaways from the report:

1

The Next 30 Years of Sea Level Rise

Sea level along the U.S. coastline is projected to rise, on average, 10 - 12 inches (0.25 - 0.30 meters) in the next 30 years (2020 - 2050), which will be as much as the rise measured over the last 100 years (1920 - 2020). Sea level rise will vary regionally along U.S. coasts because of changes in both land and ocean height.

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2

More Damaging Flooding Projected

Sea level rise will create a profound shift in coastal flooding over the next 30 years by causing tide and storm surge heights to increase and reach further inland. By 2050, “moderate” (typically damaging) flooding is expected to occur, on average, more than 10 times as often as it does today, and can be intensified by local factors.

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3

Emissions Matter

Current and future emissions matter. About 2 feet (0.6 meters) of sea level rise along the U.S. coastline is increasingly likely between 2020 and 2100 because of emissions to date. Failing to curb future emissions could cause an additional 1.5 - 5 feet (0.5 - 1.5 meters) of rise for a total of 3.5 - 7 feet (1.1 - 2.1 meters) by the end of this century.

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4

Continual Tracking

Continuously tracking how and why sea level is changing is an important part of informing plans for adaptation. Our ability to monitor and understand the individual factors that contribute to sea level rise allows us to track sea level changes in a way that has never before been possible (e.g., using satellites to track global ocean levels and ice sheet thickness). Ongoing and expanded monitoring will be critical as sea levels continue to rise.

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Dive Deeper into the four key takeaways from the report:

1

The Next 30 Years

Sea level along the U.S. coastline is projected to rise, on average, 10 - 12 inches (0.25 - 0.30 meters) in the next 30 years (2020 - 2050), which will be as much as the rise measured over the last 100 years (1920 - 2020). Sea level rise will vary regionally along U.S. coasts because of changes in both land and ocean height.

Breaking it Down:

Rise in the next three decades is anticipated to be, on average: 10 - 14 inches (0.25 - 0.35 meters) for the East coast; 14 - 18 inches (0.35 - 0.45 meters) for the Gulf coast; 4 - 8 inches (0.1 - 0.2 meters) for the West coast; 8 - 10 inches (0.2 - 0.25 meters) for the Caribbean; 6 - 8 inches (0.15 - 0.2 meters) for the Hawaiian Islands; and 8 - 10 inches (0.2 - 0.25 meters) for northern Alaska.

This report provides greater confidence in estimates of sea level rise out to 2050 than the previous 2017 report because of advances in sea level science, as captured in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report, and the use of multiple lines of evidence: both the trends in the amount of relative sea level rise already observed and the models of future sea level rise closely match one another in the next 30 years.

2

More Damaging Flooding

Sea level rise will create a profound shift in coastal flooding over the next 30 years by causing tide and storm surge heights to increase and reach further inland. By 2050, “moderate” (typically damaging) flooding is expected to occur, on average, more than 10 times as often as it does today, and can be intensified by local factors.

Breaking it Down:

With this shift, “moderate” (typically damaging) flooding will occur more frequently in 2050 (4 events/year) than “minor” (mostly disruptive, nuisance, or high tide) flooding occurs today (3 events/year).

“Major” (often destructive) flooding is expected to occur five times as often in 2050 (0.2 events/year) as it does today (0.04 events/year).

These averages will be exceeded in some locations across the U.S. because of regional and year-to-year variability.

Coastal flooding can be exacerbated by many factors that are not included in these estimates, such as rainfall, river discharge, wave impacts like coastal erosion, and existing infrastructure.

Without additional risk reduction measures, U.S. coastal infrastructure, communities, and ecosystems will face increased impacts.

3

Emissions Matter

Current and future emissions matter. About 2 feet (0.6 meters) of sea level rise along the U.S. coastline is increasingly likely between 2020 and 2100 because of emissions to date. Failing to curb future emissions could cause an additional 1.5 - 5 feet (0.5 - 1.5 meters) of rise for a total of 3.5 - 7 feet (1.1 - 2.1 meters) by the end of this century.

Breaking it Down:

Current and future emissions will determine the amount of additional rise in the future: the greater the emissions, the greater the warming, and the greater the likelihood of higher sea levels.

Above 5.5°F (3°C) of global warming, much greater sea level rise becomes possible for the U.S. and globally because of the potential for rapid melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. The amount of additional warming required to trigger this is unknown because ice sheet instability is difficult to model and there is great variability in current modeling approaches.

Efforts are underway to improve our understanding of ice sheet dynamics in order to more precisely project future sea level rise in response to continued emissions and warming.

4

Continual Tracking

Continuously tracking how and why sea level is changing is an important part of informing plans for adaptation. Our ability to monitor and understand the individual factors that contribute to sea level rise allows us to track sea level changes in a way that has never before been possible (e.g., using satellites to track global ocean levels and ice sheet thickness). Ongoing and expanded monitoring will be critical as sea levels continue to rise.

Breaking it Down:

U.S. federal agencies performing continuous monitoring and assessments of key sea level rise source contributions affecting U.S. coastlines — such as ocean heat content, ice mass loss from Greenland and Antarctica, vertical land motion, and changes in the Gulf Stream — can provide early indications of change in the trajectory of sea level rise, which can inform shifts in adaptation planning.

This Technical Report is the latest product of the Interagency Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flood Hazard and Tool Task Force, which includes members from the following agencies: