Last summer, more than 350 scientists from 42 countries gathered to focus on sea level science. They also focused on the information that coastal practitioners need for assessing the potential effects of sea level rise and for considering responses.
Over the 5 days of the conference, scientists showcased major advances in sea level research, considering paleoinformation on sea level, ice sheet dynamics, contemporary sea level change, the coastal zone and sea level, and projections of sea level, including information needs for coastal adaptation. They recommended the following:
- a commitment to sustained global and regional sea level observations, accounting for all components of sea level change and making use of both remotely sensed and in situ technologies
- application of paleodata and other data to better understand—over a broad range of time and space scales—the natural variability and nonanthropogenic contributions to ongoing sea level rise, sea level highstands, and rates of change
- improvements in understanding the dynamics of ice sheets and the ice-ocean interaction for better projections of their contributions to future sea level change
- assessment of uplift and subsidence, especially human-induced subsidence, to guide analysis of regional sea level change and improve attribution of changes
- open climate model developments to provide high-resolution regional coastal sea level information, which should incorporate a range of models with advanced process parameterizations and enhanced calibration by observations and should include storm surges, waves, and subsidence
- improvement of sea level forecasts and projections for planning, early warning, adaptation, and mitigation, which need to extend beyond 2100
- development of a stakeholder forum that enables timely and effective information exchange for mitigation of, and adaptation to, sea level change, which should include the present states and projected changes in mean and extreme sea levels, wave conditions, and potential impacts, including changes in coastal floods, coastal erosion, and saltwater intrusion
- development of policies and regulatory frameworks for impact and adaptation assessments for all vulnerable coastal areas, such as major cities, deltas, and islands
Conference attendees demonstrated an amazing degree of enthusiasm about cross-disciplinary sea level research. The science presented provides unambiguous evidence that sea level is rising and that the increase will continue to accelerate unless emissions are mitigated.
The conference was hosted by the Earth Institute of Columbia University; 22 international organizations and U.S. entities cosponsored the events. The conference website has a full conference statement.
—Detlef Stammer (email: [email protected]), Centrum für Erdsystemforschung und Nachhaltigkeit, Universität Hamburg, Germany; Roderik van de Wal, Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht University, Netherlands; and Robert J. Nicholls, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton, U.K.