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WIREs Clim Change
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Integrating new sea‐level scenarios into coastal risk and adaptation assessments: An ongoing process

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Abstract The release of new and updated sea‐level rise (SLR) information, such as from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports, needs to be better anticipated in coastal risk and adaptation assessments. This requires risk and adaptation assessments to be regularly reviewed and updated as needed, reflecting the new information but retaining useful information from earlier assessments. In this paper, updated guidance on the types of SLR information available is presented, including for sea‐level extremes. An intercomparison of the evolution of the headline projected ranges across all the IPCC reports show an increase from the fourth and fifth assessments to the most recent “Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate” assessment. IPCC reports have begun to highlight the importance of potential high‐end sea‐level response, mainly reflecting uncertainties in the Greenland/Antarctic ice sheet components, and how this might be considered in scenarios. The methods that are developed here are practical and consider coastal risk assessment, adaptation planning, and long‐term decision‐making to be an ongoing process and ensure that despite the large uncertainties, pragmatic adaptation decisions can be made. It is concluded that new sea‐level information should not be seen as an automatic reason for abandoning existing assessments, but as an opportunity to review (i) the assessment's robustness in the light of new science and (ii) the utility of proactive adaptation and planning strategies, especially over the more uncertain longer term. This article is categorized under: Assessing Impacts of Climate Change > Scenario Development and Application
Sea‐level change (m) for the year 2100 (relative to year 1992) associated with combined Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet melt under a mid‐range (A1B) scenario. The green contour shows the global mean change (taken from figure 1 in Spada et al., 2013)
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(a) Ensemble mean projection of the time‐averaged dynamic and steric sea‐level changes for the period 2081–2100 relative to the reference period 1986–2005, computed from 21 CMIP5 climate models (in meters), using the RCP4.5 scenario. The figure includes the globally averaged increase in steric sea level of 0.18 ± 0.05 m. (b) Root‐mean square (RMS) spread (deviation) of the individual model result around the ensemble mean (meters) (reproduced from figures 13 to 16 in Church et al., 2013b). Note that the global mean differs from table 13.5 in Church et al. (2013b) by less than 0.01 m, as a slightly different set of CMIP5 models was used
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Evolving sophistication of the treatment of sea‐level projections (upper) and (lower) range of global mean sea‐level scenarios from 2010 to 2100 in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports (with adjustments and extensions as needed). The solid bar represents the 5th–95th percentile of the model outputs, which is often interpreted in the most recent IPCC assessment as the “likely” range and vertical lines represent a wider range including additional uncertainties (see supporting information for details)
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Sea‐level rise allowances (m) for 2010–2100 sea‐level change scenarios from AR5, RCP8.5. (Reproduced under CC BY 4.0 from Slangen, van de Wal, et al., 2017)
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Process for the revision/updating of sea‐level rise (SLR) evidence within risk and adaptation assessments and planning
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