Future Sea Level Rise and the New Jersey Coast: Assessing Potential Impacts and Opportunities

Increasing rates of sea level rise caused by global warming are expected to lead to permanent inundation, episodic flooding, beach erosion and saline intrusion in low-lying coastal areas. Sea level rise is a significant and growing threat to the coastal region of New Jersey, USA and this study presents a comprehensive assessment of the expected impacts. We project future sea level rise based on historical measurements and global scenarios, and apply them to digital elevation models to illustrate the extent to which the New Jersey coast is vulnerable. We estimate that 1 to 3 % of New Jersey’s land area will be affected by inundation and 6.5 to over 9 % by episodic coastal flooding over the next century. We also characterize potential impacts on the socioeconomic and natural systems of the New Jersey coast focusing on Cape May Point for illustrative purposes. We then suggest a range of potential adaptation and mitigation opportunities for managing coastal areas in response to sea level rise. Our findings suggest that where possible a gradual withdrawal of development from some areas of the New Jersey coast may be the optimum management strategy for protecting natural ecosystems.

Position Title: 
Environment and Realty Program Manager