Rising Sea Levels: Helping Decision-Makers Confront the Inevitable

John A. Hall, Christopher P. Weaver, Jayantha Obeysekera, Mark Crowell, Radley M. Horton, Robert E. Kopp, John Marburger, Douglas C. Marcy, Adam Parris, William V. Sweet, William C. Veatch, Kathleen D. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Sea-level rise (SLR) is not just a future trend; it is occurring now in most coastal regions across the globe. It thus impacts not only long-range planning in coastal environments, but also emergency preparedness. Its inevitability and irreversibility on long time scales, in addition to its spatial non-uniformity, uncertain magnitude and timing, and capacity to drive non-stationarity in coastal flooding on planning and engineering timescales, create unique challenges for coastal risk-management decision processes. This review assesses past United States federal efforts to synthesize evolving SLR science in support of coastal risk management. In particular, it outlines the: (1) evolution in global SLR scenarios to those using a risk-based perspective that also considers low-probability but high-consequence outcomes, (2) regionalization of the global scenarios, and (3) use of probabilistic approaches. It also describes efforts to further contextualize regional scenarios by combining local mean sea-level changes with extreme water level projections. Finally, it offers perspectives on key issues relevant to the future uptake, interpretation, and application of sea-level change scenarios in decision-making. These perspectives have utility for efforts to craft standards and guidance for preparedness and resilience measures to reduce the risk of coastal flooding and other impacts related to SLR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-150
Number of pages24
JournalCoastal Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


  • coastal risk management
  • extreme water levels
  • managing uncertainty
  • regional/local sea-level rise scenarios
  • risk-based approach


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