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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

New York City Panel on Climate Change 2019 Report Chapter 3: Sea Level Rise


Vivien Gornitz

Michael Oppenheimer

Robert Kopp

Philip Orton

Maya Buchanan

Ning Lin

Radley Horton

Daniel Bader

+3 more
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Secondary Title:
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences


The New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC, 2015) sea level rise projections provide the current scientific basis for New York City scientific decision making and planning, as reflected in, for example, the City's Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines. However, since the IPCC (2013) and NPCC (2015) reports, recent observations show mounting glacier and ice sheet losses leading to rising sea levels. Furthermore, new developments in modeling interactions between oceans, atmosphere, and ice sheets suggest the possibility of a significantly higher global mean sea level rise (GMSLR) by 2100 than previously anticipated, particularly under elevated greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

Because of the potentially serious adverse consequences of soaring sea levels to people and infrastructure in low-lying neighborhoods of New York City, we introduce a new high-impact sea level rise scenario, Antarctic Rapid Ice Melt (ARIM), which includes the possibility of Antarctic Ice Sheet destabilization. An earlier "Rapid Ice Melt Scenario" (NPCC, 2010) assumed a late 21st century rate of high-end sea level rise of \~0.39–0.47 in. per decade, based on paleo-sea level data after the last Ice Age. ARIM represents a new, physically plausible upper-end, low probability (significantly less than 10% likelihood of occurring) scenario for the late 21st century, derived from improved modeling of ice sheet–ocean behavior to supplement the current (NPCC, 2015) sea level rise projections.

We briefly summarize key processes that control sea level rise on global to local scales, observed trends, and risks the city faces due to current and ongoing sea level rise. We also briefly recap the NPCC (2015) sea level rise projections for comparison with ARIM. To set the stage for ARIM, we review recent trends in land ice losses (Section 3.5) that reinforce the need to consider such an upper-end scenario. A more detailed discussion of these trends and technical details of the ARIM scenario are provided in Appendix 3.A.

New York City Panel on Climate Change 2019 Report Chapter 3: Sea Level Rise