The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in collaboration with SERDP has released a report on global sea level rise scenarios out to the year 2100. The report, written by contributors from 10 federal and academic science institutions, lays out four risk-based scenarios describing potential future conditions. These scenarios can be used to analyze vulnerabilities and impacts from sea level rise and take action to minimize them.

Global mean sea level is rising and is predicted to continue to rise for the foreseeable future. The report concluded that a more than 90 percent chance exists that global mean sea level will rise between 0.2 and 2.0 meters by 2100, no more, no less. Over the course of the next century, this will have significant impacts on natural and built infrastructure occurring along coastlines in the United States including coastal infrastructure critical to the Department of Defense and military readiness.

To assess coastal impacts and vulnerabilities within a risk management framework, estimates of global mean sea level rise are a critical starting point. Previously, no coordinated, interagency effort existed in the United States to identify such estimates. Planners, policy makers, and coastal managers were “left to identify estimates through their own interpretation of the scientific literature or the advice of experts on an ad-hoc basis.”

The NOAA report, Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment, identifies four scenarios of global sea level rise based on different degrees of ocean warming and ice sheet loss that provide these critical estimates of potential future conditions. These scenarios, together with local and regional information on climatic, physical, ecological, and biological process, can now be used by planners, policy makers, and coastal managers to assess vulnerabilities and impacts and identify and initiate actions that can be taken to help reduce future impacts and vulnerabilities. Changes in global sea levels are not distributed uniformly and other physical processes, such as land subsidence, affect local sea levels. As a result, translation of the global mean SLR scenarios to regional and local conditions is an active area of research.

SERDP's Resource Conservation and Climate Change Program Manager, Dr. John Hall, was among the 12 contributing report authors from NOAA, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Defense, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District, Columbia University, University of Maryland, and University of Arizona.