September 18th, 2013

Changing Weather Hazard Landscape: Coastal Flooding

Posted at 1:00 AM ET

The hazard of greatest concern under global warming is coastal flooding. According to the IPCC, a sea-level rise of at least one to two feet (25 to 50 centimeters) can be expected by the end of the century (with the understanding that a wide range of sea-level rise scenarios exist). This is of great significance for all coastal cities and communities. This is of even greater significance to fishing and agriculture communities located on the Asian coasts, many of which are situated on low-lying and flat geographical areas. The recent consequences of Cyclone Nilam for Eastern India and the impacts of Sandy (2012) for the coastal United States are grave examples of such impacts, and under sea-level rise, such impacts will come with greater frequency and severity. Tropical cyclone, extratropical cyclone and tsunami coastal impacts will all come with greater frequency and severity under the projected sea-level rise. This poses a significant human and economic concern for these areas, and is a significant concern to the (re)insurance industry.

The IPCC identifies a number of possible long-term adaptation measures. Such measures include the development and improvement of building codes and standards for coastal flood resilience in vulnerable areas - important both for developing and developed countries. With the possible rise in sea levels, coastal management, including a re-examination of coastal defense structures such as dykes and seawalls, should be a priority. Flooding in coastal areas can propagate large distances inland to cause damage to infrastructures in inland areas, such as subway transportation systems. As another measure, land use strategies that shift unnecessary development away from coastal areas may also be beneficial as a means of mitigating the coastal flood threat to life, property and capital.

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