Joint projections of US East Coast sea level and storm surge

Christopher M. Little, Radley M. Horton, Robert E. Kopp, Michael Oppenheimer, Gabriel Andres Vecchi, Gabriele Villarini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Future coastal flood risk will be strongly influenced by sea-level rise (SLR) and changes in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones. These two factors are generally considered independently. Here, we assess twenty-first century changes in the coastal hazard for the US East Coast using a flood index (FI) that accounts for changes in flood duration and magnitude driven by SLR and changes in power dissipation index (PDI, an integrated measure of tropical cyclone intensity, frequency and duration). Sea-level rise and PDI are derived from representative concentration pathway (RCP) simulations of 15 atmosphere-ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs). By 2080-2099, projected changes in the FI relative to 1986-2005 are substantial and positively skewed: a 10th-90th percentile range 4-75 times higher for RCP 2.6 and 35-350 times higher for RCP 8.5. High-end FI projections are driven by three AOGCMs that project the largest increases in SLR, PDI and upper ocean temperatures. Changes in PDI are particularly influential if their intra-model correlation with SLR is included, increasing the RCP 8.5 90th percentile FI by a further 25%. Sea-level rise from other, possibly correlated, climate processes (for example, ice sheet and glacier mass changes) will further increase coastal flood risk and should be accounted for in comprehensive assessments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1114-1120
Number of pages7
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Joint projections of US East Coast sea level and storm surge'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this