Climatic Change

, Volume 90, Issue 4, pp 453-473

First online:

Climate change and coastal flooding in Metro Boston: impacts and adaptation strategies

  • Paul KirshenAffiliated withTufts Water: Systems, Science, and Society (WSSS) Graduate Education Program and Research Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department, Tufts University Email author 
  • , Kelly KneeAffiliated withApplied Science Associates
  • , Matthias RuthAffiliated withCenter for Integrative Environmental Research, Engineering and Public Policy, University of Maryland

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Sea level rise (SLR) due to climate change will increase storm surge height along the 825 km long coastline of Metro Boston, USA. Land at risk consists of urban waterfront with piers and armoring, residential areas with and without seawalls and revetments, and undeveloped land with either rock coasts or gently sloping beachfront and low-lying coastal marshes. Risk-based analysis shows that the cumulative 100 year economic impacts on developed areas from increased storm surge flooding depend heavily upon the adaptation response, location, and estimated sea level rise. Generally it is found that it is advantageous to use expensive structural protection in areas that are highly developed and less structural approaches such as floodproofing and limiting or removing development in less developed or environmentally sensitive areas.