BOX 3.1

Sea-Level Rise and Storm Surge

The effect of rising mean sea levels at naval coastal installations will be felt most profoundly during extreme storm conditions when strong winds and low atmospheric pressure bring about a temporary and localized increase in sea level known as a storm surge. Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the storm tide, which can increase the mean water level 15 feet or more. In addition, wind-driven waves are superimposed on the storm tide (see Figure 3.1.1).

FIGURE 3.1.1 Sea-level rise and storm surge. SOURCE: Courtesy of NOAA.

FIGURE 3.1.1 Sea-level rise and storm surge. SOURCE: Courtesy of NOAA.

This rise in water level can cause severe flooding in coastal areas, particularly when the storm surge coincides with the normal high tides. Storm surges occurring on higher mean sea levels will enable inundation and damaging waves to penetrate further inland, increasing flooding, erosion, and the subsequent detrimental impacts on built infrastructure and natural ecosystems. At coastal naval instal

underestimated5,6 and that major changes in Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet dynamics can take place over relatively short timescales. These changes should


Mark F. Meier, Mark B. Dyurgerov, Ursula K. Rick, Shad O’Neel, W. Tad Pfeffer, Robert S. Anderson, Suzanne P. Anderson, and Andrey F. Glazovsky. 2007. “Glaciers Dominate Eustatic Sea-Level Rise in the 21st Century,” Science, Vol. 317, pp. 1064-1067.


David B. Bahr, Mark Dyurgerov, and Mark F. Meier. 2009. “Sea-Level Rise from Glaciers and Ice Caps: A Lower Bound,” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 36, L03501.

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