How does a changing climate affect sea level rise ?
A warmer climate causes seawater to expand (known as thermal expansion) and warmer temperatures also cause ice sheets and glaciers on land to melt. l
What does this mean for coastal communities ?
Extreme sea levels occur naturally when severe storms and high spring tides coincide, but with climate change the predictions are for more frequent and more severe storms. The result could be that extreme flooding events and coastal erosion happen more often. For example, a severe storm that occurs now only once in every 100 years is predicted to occur every year by 2100. High water levels will occur more frequently and unless flood defences are improved they are more likely to be over-topped.
Higher water levels will affect us in many ways. It is likely to affect communities that live and work on the open coast in particular, as they are more exposed to onshore winds and wave action is greater. Homes, businesses, farmland and infrastructure will be at greater risk of flooding and more vulnerable to erosion. Inter-tidal areas such as mudflats and saltmarsh will be under water for more of the time and could be squeezed increasingly against hard flood defences, such as sea walls. Any reduction in such protected habitats could have a detrimental effect on wildlife using our caosts and estuaries, including on overwintering birds which are of international importance.