The kind of extreme coastal flooding events that today hit parts of Europe roughly once every hundred years could happen annually by the end of the century as the climate continues to change, a new study suggests.
Such “rare catastrophic events, which most of us have not experienced, will become a part of most Europeans’ lives,” study leader Michalis Vousdoukas, a coastal oceanographer at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, said in an email.
The analysis, detailed in the journal Earth’s Future, is the first to take into account not only sea level rise due to warming temperatures, but also the impacts of climate change on storm surge and wave activity when estimating future flood risk. Those two factors have played a key role in the worst flooding disasters, and so are important to consider because “it's always the extreme events that are important in terms of impacts, since they are explosive and unpredictable,” Vousdoukas said.
That seas are rising as the planet heats up is one of the clearest outcomes of climate change. Currently, seas are rising by about an inch per decade, though rates vary from region to region because of local land rise and subsidence. If greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed, global seas could rise by 10 inches to 2.5 feet, on average, by the end of the century, according to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
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