Information for Australian Impact and Adaptation Planning in response to Sea-level Rise

K.L. Mcinnes, J. Church, D. Monselesan, J.R. Hunter, J.G. O'Grady, Ivan Haigh, X. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)


Sea levels along Australia's coastline are influenced by natural climate variability and anthro-pogenic climate change. Projections of sea-level rise (SLR) for 2090 for the Australian coast-line are similar to the global mean sea-level projections. The global and regional projections are almost independent of the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) for greenhouse gas emissions chosen for the first decades of the 21st century, but they begin to diverge significantly from about 2050. For the business-as-usual scenario (RCP8.5), the rates increase steadi-ly through the 21st century, reaching almost 12 mm yr-1 by 2100 at all locations. For the inter-mediate scenarios of RCP 6.0 and RCP 4.5, the rates stabilise in about 2090 and 2060 at about 7-8 and 6 mm yr-1, respectively. For the strong mitigation scenario (RCP 2.6, requiring significant and urgent mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions), the rate of rise stabilises much earlier than the other scenarios and then reduces slightly to about 4 mm yr-1. On the north and west coasts of Australia, the observed sea-level trends from the start of the projections in 1996 to 2010 are larger than the model projections as a result of the combined effect of SLR and internal modes of climate variability. The impacts of SLR will be felt most profoundly during extreme sea-level events. The meteorological and climate processes that contribute to extreme sea levels around the coast of Australia are highly regionally heterogeneous. Allowances were calculated that provide estimates of the height that present assets or their protective measures would need to be raised to ensure that the likelihood of exceedance of those levels in the future does not change from the present climate. These allowances vary according to SLR projections, their uncertainties and the variability of extreme sea levels. For 2030, when the uncertainty surrounding future SLR scenarios is small, the allowances are approximately the median projected SLR. However by 2090, the larger uncertainties associated with the projections lead to allowances that typically lie to-wards the upper end of the range of projected SLR.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-149
JournalJournal of Southern Hemisphere Earth Systems Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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