A high‐end estimate of sea‐level rise for practitioners

R. S. W. van de Wal, R. J. Nicholls, D. Behar, K. McInnes, D. Stammer, J. A. Lowe, J. A. Church, R. Deconto, X. Fettweis, H. Goelzer, M. Haasnoot, I. D. Haigh, J. Hinkel, B. P. Horton, T. S. James, A. Jenkins, G. Lecozannet, A. Levermann, W. H. Lipscomb, B. MarzeionF. Pattyn, T. Payne, T. Pfeffer, S. F. Price, H. Seroussi, S. Sun, W. Veatch, K. White

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Sea-level rise (SLR) is a long-lasting consequence of climate change because global anthropogenic warming takes centuries to millennia to equilibrate for the deep ocean and ice sheets. SLR projections based on climate models support policy analysis, risk assessment and adaptation planning today, despite their large uncertainties. The central range of the SLR distribution is estimated by process-based models. However, risk-averse practitioners often require information about plausible future conditions that lie in the tails of the SLR distribution, which are poorly defined by existing models. Here, a community effort combining scientists and practitioners builds on a framework of discussing physical evidence to quantify high-end global SLR for practitioners. The approach is complementary to the IPCC AR6 report and provides further physically plausible high-end scenarios. High-end estimates for the different SLR components are developed for two climate scenarios at two timescales. For global warming of +2 ˚C in 2100 (RCP2.6/SSP1-2.6) relative to pre-industrial values our high-end global SLR estimates are up to 0.9 m in 2100 and 2.5 m in 2300. Similarly, for a (RCP8.5/SSP5-8.5) we estimate up to 1.6 m in 2100 and up to 10.4 m in 2300. The large and growing differences between the scenarios beyond 2100 emphasize the long-term benefits of mitigation. However, even a modest 2 ˚C warming may cause multi-meter SLR on centennial time scales with profound consequences for coastal areas. Earlier high-end assessments focused on instability mechanisms in Antarctica, while here we emphasize the importance of the timing of ice shelf collapse around Antarctica. This is highly uncertain due to low understanding of the driving processes. Hence both process understanding and emission scenario control high-end SLR.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022EF002751
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number11
Early online date22 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

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