Characterizing the deep uncertainties surrounding coastal flood hazard projections: A case study for Norfolk, VA

K. L. Ruckert, V. Srikrishnan, and K. Keller

Scientific Reports (6 August 2019)

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-47587-6

Coastal planners and decision makers design risk management strategies based on hazard projections. However, projections can differ drastically. What causes this divergence and which projection(s) should a decision maker adopt to create plans and adaptation efforts for improving coastal resiliency? Using Norfolk, Virginia, as a case study, we start to address these questions by characterizing and quantifying the drivers of differences between published sea-level rise and storm surge projections, and how these differences can impact efforts to improve coastal resilience. We find that assumptions about the complex behavior of ice sheets are the primary drivers of flood hazard diversity. Adopting a single hazard projection neglects key uncertainties and can lead to overconfident projections and downwards biased hazard estimates. These results highlight key avenues to improve the usefulness of hazard projections to inform decision-making such as (i) representing complex ice sheet behavior, (ii) covering decision-relevant timescales beyond this century, (iii) resolving storm surges with a low chance of occurring (e.g., a 0.2

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