Study predicts sea level rise will reduce Britain’s coastline by up to 72 feet by 2100

A new study finds that rising sea levels could push back the British coastline by up to 72 feet (22 metres) by 2100.

Researchers from Imperial College London have modeled the consequences that different scenarios of future climate change would have on the country’s slopes.

They found that by the end of the century, the rocky coasts of North Yorkshire and Devon could be retreating ten times faster than they are now.

‘Slate coastal erosion is irreversible: now is the time to limit future sea level rise before it is too late,’ said senior author Dr Dylan Rudd.

“Humanity can directly control the fate of our coasts by reducing greenhouse gas emissions – the future of our coasts is in our hands.”

A new study finds that rising sea levels could push back the British coastline by up to 72 feet (22 metres) by 2100.

The rate of erosion is likely to be three to ten times the current rate, a rate not seen for 3,000 to 5,000 years, and much faster than previously thought.  Pictured: Shelf retreat predictions based on future sea level scenarios at Bedford (a) and Sculby (b)

The rate of erosion is likely to be three to ten times the current rate, a rate not seen for 3,000 to 5,000 years, and much faster than previously thought. Pictured: Shelf retreat predictions based on future sea level scenarios at Bedford (a) and Sculby (b)

To build their model, the researchers collected rock samples at study sites near Sculby in Yorkshire and Bideford in Devon, and measured the concentration of special atoms called

To build their model, the researchers collected rock samples at study sites near Sculby in Yorkshire and Bideford in Devon, and measured the concentration of special atoms called “cosmic radionuclides” (CRNs). Pictured: the coast near Bedford, Devon

Future coastal erosion in the United Kingdom

The model revealed that Sculpey could see between 43 feet (13 meters) and 72 feet (22 meters) of coastal retreat by 2100, and between 33 feet (10 meters) and 46 feet (14 meters) in Bedford.

The upper end of these ranges is thought to be the result if the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions remains unchanged.

The rate of erosion is likely to be three to ten times the current rate, a rate not seen in 3,000 to 5,000 years, and much faster than previously thought.

This is because past erosion was driven by waves, and is likely to get stronger as sea levels rise and storms become more frequent due to climate change.

Global climate change has been repeatedly linked to sea level rise by eminent scientists.

This is due to the 1.8°F (1°C) warming we’ve seen since preindustrial times melting ice sheets and glaciers, like those in Greenland and Antarctica.

A Met Office report published in July revealed that sea levels are rising three times faster than they were a century ago.

The rate of increase has reached 0.2 inches (5.2 mm) per year in parts of the country.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia revealed in June that the UK could see sea levels rise by about three feet (one meter) by the end of the century.

As a result, nearly 200,000 homes and businesses in England are at risk of being lost to rising sea levels by 2050, unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

For the new study, published today in Nature Communications, the researchers wanted to examine the impact on British slopes.

They collected rock samples at study sites near Scalby in Yorkshire and Bideford in Devon, and measured the concentration of special atoms called “cosmic radionuclides” (CRNs).

These build up in rocks bombarded by cosmic rays, revealing how long they’ve been exposed, and thus their previous rate of erosion.

This data was combined with recorded changes in shelf shape and sea level to build a model that tracks coastal erosion over the past 8,000 years.

He revealed that the historical rate of erosion at the two sites closely matches the rate of sea level rise, and that there is a proven causal relationship.

The model revealed that the historical rate of erosion at the two sites closely matches the rate of sea level rise, and that there is a proven causal relationship.  Pictured: past and future relative sea level for the years 1900 2100 for Biddeford (dashed line) and Sculpey (solid line) for different climate change scenarios (RCP)

The model revealed that the historical rate of erosion at the two sites closely matches the rate of sea level rise, and that there is a proven causal relationship. Pictured: Past and future relative sea level for the years 1900 – 2100 for Bedford (dashed line) and Sculby (solid line) for different climate change scenarios (RCP)

This means that the model can be used to reliably predict the impact of different greenhouse gas scenarios, and thus changes in sea level, that will occur on the coast in the future.

It revealed that Scalby could see between 43 feet (13 meters) and 72 feet (22 meters) of coastal retreat by 2100, and between 33 feet (10 meters) and 46 feet (14 meters) in Bedford.

The upper end of these ranges is thought to be the result if the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions remains unchanged.

The rate of erosion is likely to be three to ten times the current rate, a rate not seen in 3,000 to 5,000 years, and much faster than previously thought.

This is because past erosion was driven by waves, and is likely to get stronger as sea levels rise and storms become more frequent due to climate change.

Lead author Dr Jennifer Shadrick said: “Sea level rise is accelerating, and our results confirm that rocky coastline retreat will accelerate in line with this.” It is not a matter of if, but when.

“The more positive news is that, now that we have a better idea of ​​scales and timescales, we can adapt accordingly.”

Past, present and projected slope locations by 2100 at Bedford (a) and Sculby (b).  RCP 8 (red line) represents the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions.  BP = years before 2000

Past, present and projected slope locations by 2100 at Bedford (a) and Sculby (b). RCP 8 (red line) represents the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions. BP = years before 2000

The researchers claim that this is the first model to assess expected erosion of hard rock coastlines, which make up more than half of the world's coastlines.  Pictured: Sculpey Coast

The researchers claim that this is the first model to assess expected erosion of hard rock coastlines, which make up more than half of the world’s coastlines. Pictured: Sculpey Coast

The researchers claim that this is the first model to assess expected erosion of hard rock coastlines, which make up more than half of the world’s coastlines.

Its results can be applied to other coastal sites around the world of the same rock type, as they would respond similarly to accelerated sea level rise.

The researchers hope their study will inform policymakers, planners and insurers, leading them to take action to protect coastlines and reach Net Zero.

“The findings are a stark warning that we must better adapt to coastal retreat or face the loss of the people, homes and infrastructure that call coastal areas home,” said Dr Shadrick.

Future research will look at adapting the model to make predictions about coastlines made up of softer rock types, such as chalk.

Melting of the Greenland ice sheet could raise sea levels by 0.5 inch by the end of the century

Melting ice sheet in northeastern Greenland could cause sea levels to rise by half an inch by the end of the century, a new study warns.

This is equivalent to the contribution made by the entire Greenland Ice Sheet over the past 50 years, which means that the rate of ice loss is greatly underestimated.

Researchers from Denmark and the United States have used satellite data and numerical models to examine ice loss from the cap since 2012.

They found that it could contribute up to six times more to global sea level rise by 2100 than climate models currently project.

‘The models are set mainly on observations at the front of the ice sheet, which are easily accessible, and where clearly a lot is going on,’ said lead author Shafaqat Abbas Khan, from the Technical University of Denmark.

“Our data shows us that what we see happening up front goes far back into the core of the ice sheet.”

Read more here

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