Climate: Current models underestimate coastal erosion impacts from sea level rise

Impacts could be much greater near estuaries, lagoons and river mouths

A pipe snaking across a Florida beach replenishes the eroded strand with material from a nearby inlet. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY ā€” When it comes to sea level rise, not many countries have as much to lose as the Netherlands, so it should be no surprise that Dutch researchers are closely tracking the impacts of coastal erosion.

In one of the latest studies, scientists from UNESCO, the Technical University of Delft and Deltares say the effects of coastline erosion as a result of rising sea-level rise in the vicinity of inlets, such as river estuaries, have been dramatically underestimated.

Using a new model that incorporates input specific to coastal inlets like river estuaries and lagoons, the researchers found that most existing models show only about 25 to 50 percent of the coastal erosion that will occur as the climate warms and sea level continues to rise.

These places are affected by other factors, such as changes in rainfall due to climate change, and certain compensating effects (basin infilling). The other processes that occur in the vicinity of inlets are of at least equal importance and coastline change in these areas as a result of rising sea levels has until now been strongly underestimated.

Until now, science has lacked a model that takes all these effects into account in the calculations of a coastline’s future development, even though a demand for this existed among engineers, coastal managers and planners.

The new model was in turn applied to four different and representative coastal areas in Vietnam and Australia, where testing showed that it’s possible to get a more accurate picture of impending changes, contributing to coastal management and planning in practice.

The research has been published in the Sept. 2 online edition of Nature Climate Change.


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