Assessing coastline recession for adaptation planning: sea level rise versus storm erosion

Roshanka Ranasinghe*, David P. Callaghan, Fan Li, David J. Wainwright, Trang Minh Duong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


The Sixth Assessment report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states with high confidence that most sandy coasts around the world will experience an increase in coastal erosion over the twenty-first century. An increase in long term coastal erosion (coastline recession) along sandy coasts can translate into massive socio-economic impacts, unless appropriate adaptation measures are implemented in the next few decades. To adequately inform adaptation measures, it is necessary to have a good understanding of the relative importance of the physical processes driving coastline recession, as well as of linkages between consideration (or not) of certain processes and the level of risk tolerance; understandings that are hitherto lacking. Here, we apply the multi-scale Probabilistic Coastline Recession (PCR) model to two end-member sandy coastal types (swell dominated and storm dominated), to investigate where and when coastline recession projections are dominated by the differential contributions from Sea Level Rise (SLR) and storm erosion. Results show that SLR substantially increases the projected end-century recession at both types of coasts and that projected changes in the wave climate have only a marginal impact. An analysis of the Process Dominance Ratio (PDR), introduced here, shows that the dominance of storm erosion over SLR (and vice versa) on total recession by 2100 depends on both the type of the beach and the risk tolerance levels. For moderately risk-averse decisions (i.e. decisions accounting only for high exceedance probability recessions and hence do not account for very high amounts of potential recession—for example, the placement of temporary summer beach cabins), additional erosion due to SLR can be considered as the dominant driver of end-century recession at both types of beaches. However, for more risk-averse decisions that would typically account for higher potential recession (i.e. lower exceedance probability recessions), such as the placement of coastal infrastructure, multi-storey apartment buildings etc., storm erosion becomes the dominant process. The results of this study provide new insights on which physical processes need to be considered when and where in terms of numerical modelling efforts needed for supporting different management decisions, potentially enabling more streamlined and comprehensive assessments of the efficacy of coastal adaptation measures.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8286
Number of pages8
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2023


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