Sea Level Rise Driving Increasingly Predictable Coastal Inundation in Sydney, Australia

Ben S. Hague, Shayne McGregor, Bradley F. Murphy, Ruth Reef, David A. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


As global mean sea level continues to rise, thresholds corresponding to coastal inundation impacts are exceeded more frequently. This paper aims to relate sea level rise (SLR) observations and projections to their physical on-the-ground impacts. Using a large coastal city as an example, we show that in Sydney, Australia, frequencies of minor coastal inundation have increased from 1.6 to 7.8 days per year between 1914 and present day. We attribute over 80% of the observed coastal inundation events between 1970 and 2015 to the predominantly anthropogenic increases in global mean sea level. Further, we find that impact-producing coastal inundation will occur weekly by 2050 under high- and medium-emission/SLR scenarios and daily by 2100 under high emissions. The proportion of tide-only coastal inundation events (i.e., where no storm surge is required to exceed flood thresholds) will increase with SLR, such that most coastal inundation events, including those considered historically severe, will become a predictable consequence of SLR and astronomical tides. These findings are important for coastal managers as frequency, severity, and predictability of inundation impacts can all now be related to the amount of SLR (e.g., a planning allowance or SLR projection). By incorporating known historical inundation events, this allows contextualization, visualization, and localization of global SLR and the changing nature of future coastal inundation risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020EF001607
Number of pages17
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • adaptation
  • climate change
  • coastal inundation
  • impacts
  • risk
  • sea level rise

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