Climatic Change

, Volume 132, Issue 4, pp 693–707 | Cite as

Past and future sea-level rise along the coast of North Carolina, USA

  • Robert E. Kopp
  • Benjamin P. Horton
  • Andrew C. Kemp
  • Claudia Tebaldi
Article

Abstract

We evaluate relative sea level (RSL) trajectories for North Carolina, USA, in the context of tide-gauge measurements and geological sea-level reconstructions spanning the last ~11,000 years. RSL rise was fastest (~7 mm/yr) during the early Holocene and slowed over time with the end of the deglaciation. During the pre-Industrial Common Era (i.e., 0–1800 CE), RSL rise (~0.7 to 1.1 mm/yr) was driven primarily by glacio-isostatic adjustment, though dampened by tectonic uplift along the Cape Fear Arch. Ocean/atmosphere dynamics caused centennial variability of up to ~0.6 mm/yr around the long-term rate. It is extremely likely (probability P=0.95) that 20th century RSL rise at Sand Point, NC, (2.8 ± 0.5 mm/yr) was faster than during any other century in at least 2,900 years. Projections based on a fusion of process models, statistical models, expert elicitation, and expert assessment indicate that RSL at Wilmington, NC, is very likely (P=0.90) to rise by 42–132 cm between 2000 and 2100 under the high-emissions RCP 8.5 pathway. Under all emission pathways, 21st century RSL rise is very likely (P>0.90) to be faster than during the 20th century. Due to RSL rise, under RCP 8.5, the current ‘1-in-100 year’ flood is expected at Wilmington in ~30 of the 50 years between 2050-2100.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert E. Kopp
    • 1
  • Benjamin P. Horton
    • 2
    • 3
  • Andrew C. Kemp
    • 4
  • Claudia Tebaldi
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Rutgers Energy Institute, and Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.Sea Level Research, Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences and Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.Earth Observatory of Singapore and Asian School of the EnvironmentNanyang Technological UniversityNanyangSingapore
  4. 4.Department of Earth and Ocean SciencesTufts UniversityMedfordUSA
  5. 5.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA

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