National Academies Press: OpenBook
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of
California, Oregon, and Washington:


Past, Present, and Future



Committee on Sea Level Rise in California, Oregon, and Washington

Board on Earth Sciences and Resources and Ocean Studies Board

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES



THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS • 500 Fifth Street, NW • Washington, DC 20001

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This study was supported by the California Department of Water Resources, Contract No. 4600008602; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Contract No. DG133R08CQ0062; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Contract No. W912HQ-09-P-0155; and the United States Geological Survey, Grant/Cooperative Agreement No. G09AP00152. Any opinions, findings, or conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-25594-3
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-25594-5

Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); http://www.nap.edu.

Cover: Lighthouse Point, Santa Cruz, California. SOURCE: Courtesy of Shmuel Thaler, Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

This page intentionally left blank.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

COMMITTEE ON SEA LEVEL RISE IN
CALIFORNIA, OREGON, AND WASHINGTON

ROBERT A. DALRYMPLE, Chair, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

LAURENCE C. BREAKER, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California

BENJAMIN A. BROOKS, University of Hawaii, Manoa

DANIEL R. CAYAN, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, California

GARY B. GRIGGS, University of California, Santa Cruz

WEIQING HAN, University of Colorado, Boulder

BENJAMIN P. HORTON, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

CHRISTINA L. HULBE, Portland State University, Oregon

JAMES C. MCWILLIAMS, University of California, Los Angeles

PHILIP W. MOTE, Oregon State University, Corvallis

WILLIAM TAD PFEFFER, University of Colorado, Boulder

DENISE J. REED, University of New Orleans, Louisiana

C.K. SHUM, Ohio State University, Columbus

Ocean Studies Board Liaison

ROBERT A. HOLMAN, Oregon State University, Corvallis

National Research Council Staff

ANNE M. LINN, Study Director, Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

MARTHA MCCONNELL, Program Officer, Ocean Studies Board (through September 2011)

COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate, Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate, Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES

CORALE L. BRIERLEY, Chair, Brierley Consultancy LLC, Highlands Ranch, Colorado

WILLIAM E. DIETRICH, University of California, Berkeley

WILLIAM. L. GRAF, University of South Carolina, Columbia

RUSSELL J. HEMLEY, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C.

MURRAY W. HITZMAN, Colorado School of Mines, Golden

EDWARD KAVAZANJIAN, Jr., Arizona State University, Tempe

DAVID R. MAIDMENT, The University of Texas, Austin

ROBERT B. MCMASTER, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

M. MEGHAN MILLER, UNAVCO, Inc., Boulder, Colorado

ISABEL P. MONTAÑEZ, University of California, Davis

CLAUDIA INÉS MORA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico

BRIJ M. MOUDGIL, University of Florida, Gainesville

CLAYTON R. NICHOLS, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (retired), Ocean Park, Washington

HENRY N. POLLACK, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

DAVID T. SANDWELL, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla

PETER M. SHEARER, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla

REGINAL SPILLER, Azimuth Investments LLC, Texas

TERRY C. WALLACE, Jr., Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico

National Research Council Staff

ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Director

ANNE M. LINN, Senior Program Officer

SAMMANTHA L. MAGSINO, Senior Program Officer

MARK D. LANGE, Program Officer

JENNIFER T. ESTEP, Financial and Administrative Associate

NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate

COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate

JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate

ERIC J. EDKIN, Senior Program Assistant

CHANDA IJAMES, Senior Program Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

OCEAN STUDIES BOARD

DONALD F. BOESCH, Chair, University of Maryland, Cambridge

EDWARD A. BOYLE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

RITA R. COLWELL, University of Maryland, College Park

SARAH COOKSEY, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Dover

CORTIS K. COOPER, Chevron Corporation, San Ramon, California

JORGE E. CORREDOR, University of Puerto Rico, Lajas

KEITH R. CRIDDLE, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

JODY W. DEMING, University of Washington, Seattle

ROBERT HALLBERG, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Princeton, New Jersey

ROBERT A. HOLMAN, Oregon State University, Corvallis

KIHO KIM, American University, Washington, D.C.

BARBARA A. KNUTH, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

GEORGE I. MATSUMOTO, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, California

JOHN A. ORCUTT, University of California, San Diego

JAY S. PEARLMAN, IEEE, Port Angeles, Washington

STEVEN E. RAMBERG, National Defense University Pennsylvania State University, Washington, D.C.

ANDREW A. ROSENBERG, Conservation International, Arlington, Virginia

DANIEL L. RUDNICK, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, California

PETER L. TYACK, University of Saint Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom

DON WALSH, International Maritime Inc., Myrtle Point, Oregon

DAWN J. WRIGHT, Oregon State University, Corvallis

JAMES A. YODER, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts

National Research Council Staff

SUSAN J. ROBERTS, Director

DEBORAH A. GLICKSON, Senior Program Officer

CLAUDIA MENGELT, Senior Program Officer

KIM J. WADDELL, Senior Program Officer

SHERRIE FORREST, Senior Program Associate

GRAIG R. MANSFIELD, Financial Associate

PAMELA A. LEWIS, Administrative Coordinator

LAUREN L. HARDING, Senior Program Assistant

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

This page intentionally left blank.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

Preface

Projections of sea-level rise are increasingly being incorporated into coastal planning at national, state, and local levels. This assessment of sea-level rise for the California, Oregon, and Washington coasts was requested by 10 state and federal agencies:

•  California Department of Water Resources

•  California Energy Commission

•  California Department of Transportation

•  California State Water Resources Control Board

•  California Ocean Protection Council

•  Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board

•  Washington Department of Ecology

•  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

•  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

•  U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

At the committee’s first meeting, each agency described its needs for sea-level information.1 The state agencies need estimates and projections of sea-level rise in their areas to assess coastal risk; to plan investments in water, transportation, energy, and pollution-control infrastructure; to modify design and construction standards; to develop adaptation strategies that will protect the environment and infrastructure against increased salt-water intrusion, coastal erosion, and inundation; and to identify necessary changes in state law or policy. NOAA and the USGS need sea-level information at state, national, and global scales to assess coastal vulnerability and response to sea-level rise; to improve models and forecasts; to develop research priorities; and to develop decision support tools for a variety of users, including the public. Finally, the USACE needs sea-level information to guide water resource investment decisions.

Assessments of sea-level rise at state and regional levels are challenging because data on the geophysical processes involved are relatively sparse and there are no agreed-upon models or approaches for projecting future sea-level rise. Consequently, in addition to searching the scientific literature, it was necessary to consult widely with colleagues and to carry out original data analyses. The results were discussed during four committee meetings in 2011 and countless teleconference and email discussions.

The committee used standard statistical techniques to calculate means, trends, and uncertainties associated with sea-level rise, and to extrapolate recent data into the future. To ensure that the calculated results were sound, the committee verified its results in several ways. Calculations performed using standard statistical packages or the equations and data presented in the report were cross-checked by one or two committee members. This process was used to check the means and uncertainties of the various components of sea-level rise, the tide gage and satellite altimetry measurement errors and corrections, vertical land motion observations and models, and estimates of the effect of gravitational attraction. Calculations that required specialized software, including extracting the steric contribution from model results, calculating trends from satellite measure-

__________

1 Presentations to the committee by the 10 sponsor agencies on January 12, 2011.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

ments and glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) models, and projecting future sea-level rise, were carried out or checked by a colleague or student of the lead committee member. The method for extrapolating the cryospheric contribution to sea-level rise was developed in collaboration with a statistician, who also verified the results. Where possible, the data and equations for these calculations are provided in the report or the public-access file, enabling an independent check from reviewers.

The committee would like to thank the individuals who briefed the committee; supplied data, figures, or model results; or provided other input or feedback: Jonathan Allan, Brian Atwater, Patrick Barnard, Laura Brophy, John Church, Abe Doherty, Catia Domingues, Peter Gleckler, Chris Goldfinger, Dominic Gregorio, Jonathan Gregory, Eric Grossman, Junyi Guo, Erica Harris, Greg Hood, Masayoshi Ishii, Ian Joughin, Jeanine Jones, Tom Kendall, Paul Komar, Eli Levitt, Sydney Levitus, Becky Lunde, Anne Pardaens, Archie Paulson, Stephan Rahmstorf, Eric Rignot, Peter Ruggiero, Carl Safina, Ingo Sasgen, Armand Thibault, Wouter van der Wal, Hansheng Wang, Kelin Wang, Jeff Weber, Josh Willis, Frank Wu, Patrick Wu, Jianjun Yin, and Phoebe Zarnetske. Special thanks go to Balaji Rajagopalan, who developed the statistical approach for the ice extrapolations; James Foster, who compiled and analyzed leveling data in California; Richard Peltier, who provided details of his GIA models and computed past and future predictions of relative sea-level changes in Washington, Oregon, and California; and Jerry Mitrovica, who provided gravity fingerprints along the U.S. west coast for Alaska, Greenland, and Antarctica. The committee also thanks the students, postdocs, and colleagues who crunched numbers, validated results, and created (and recreated) figures, including Jianbin Duan, Zhenwei Huang, Chungyen Kuo, Darrin Sharp, Scott Waibel, and Yuchan Yi. Without the hard work and contributions of all these individuals, it would have been difficult to complete this report.

Finally, I thank all the members of the committee for their service, some of whom had to go way beyond that usually required for an NRC committee because of the short study period and the complexity of the task. Finally, I thank Anne Linn for her tireless efforts as Study Director and for bringing the report to fruition.

Robert A. Dalrymple, Chair 
Committee on Sea Level Rise in
California, Oregon, and Washington 

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

Acknowledgments

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:

Linda K. Blum, University of Virginia, Charlottesville

Roland Bürgmann, University of California, Berkeley

John A. Church, Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Hobart, Tasmania

Peter J. Gleckler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California

Peter H. Gleick, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, Oakland, California

Mark F. Meier, emeritus, University of Colorado, Boulder

Jerry X. Mitrovica, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Antony R. Orme, University of California, Los Angeles

W. Richard Peltier, University of Toronto, Canada

Stephen Price, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico

Claudia Tebaldi, Climate Central, Princeton, New Jersey, and Palo Alto, California

John M. Wallace, University of Washington, Seattle

Joshua K. Willis, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Ken Brink, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Warren Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×

This page intentionally left blank.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR1
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR2
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR3
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR4
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR5
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR6
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR7
Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR8
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR9
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR10
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR11
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR12
Page xiii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR13
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13389.
×
PageR14
Next: Summary »
Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $54.00 Buy Ebook | $43.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Tide gauges show that global sea level has risen about 7 inches during the 20th century, and recent satellite data show that the rate of sea-level rise is accelerating. As Earth warms, sea levels are rising mainly because ocean water expands as it warms; and water from melting glaciers and ice sheets is flowing into the ocean. Sea-level rise poses enormous risks to the valuable infrastructure, development, and wetlands that line much of the 1,600 mile shoreline of California, Oregon, and Washington. As those states seek to incorporate projections of sea-level rise into coastal planning, they asked the National Research Council to make independent projections of sea-level rise along their coasts for the years 2030, 2050, and 2100, taking into account regional factors that affect sea level.

Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future explains that sea level along the U.S. west coast is affected by a number of factors. These include: climate patterns such as the El Nino, effects from the melting of modern and ancient ice sheets, and geologic processes, such as plate tectonics. Regional projections for California, Oregon, and Washington show a sharp distinction at Cape Mendocino in northern California. South of that point, sea-level rise is expected to be very close to global projections. However, projections are lower north of Cape Mendocino because the land is being pushed upward as the ocean plate moves under the continental plate along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. However, an earthquake magnitude 8 or larger, which occurs in the region every few hundred to 1,000 years, would cause the land to drop and sea level to suddenly rise.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!