Strategies to manage the risks posed by future sea-level rise hinge on a sound characterization of the inherent uncertainties. One of the major uncertainties is the possible rapid disintegration of large fractions of the Antarctic ice sheet in response to rising global temperatures. This could potentially lead to several meters of sea-level rise during the next few centuries. Previous studies have typically been silent on two coupled questions: (i) What are probabilistic estimates of this “fast dynamic” contribution to sea-level rise? (ii) What are the implications for strategies to manage coastal flooding risks? Here, we present probabilistic hindcasts and projections of sea-level rise to 2100. The fast dynamic mechanism is approximated by a simple parameterization, designed to allow for a careful quantification of the uncertainty in its contribution to sea-level rise. We estimate that global temperature increases ranging from 1.9 to 3.1 °C coincide with fast Antarctic disintegration, and these contributions account for sea-level rise of 21–74 cm this century (5–95% range, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5). We use a simple cost-benefit analysis of coastal defense to demonstrate in a didactic exercise how neglecting this mechanism and associated uncertainty can (i) lead to strategies which fall sizably short of protection targets and (ii) increase the expected net costs.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Global and Planetary Change
- Atmospheric Science