Modeling multiple sea level rise stresses reveals up to twice the land at risk compared to strictly passive fooding methods
Planning community resilience to sea level rise (SLR) requires information about where, when, and how SLR hazards will impact the coastal zone. We augment passive flood mapping (the so-called “bathtub” approach) by simulating physical processes posing recurrent threats to coastal infrastructure, communities, and ecosystems in Hawai‘i (including tidally-forced direct marine and groundwater flooding, seasonal wave inundation, and chronic coastal erosion). We find that the “bathtub” approach, alone, ignores 35–54 percent of the total land area exposed to one or more of these hazards, depending on location and SLR scenario. We conclude that modeling dynamic processes, including waves and erosion, is essential to robust SLR vulnerability assessment. Results also indicate that as sea level rises, coastal lands are exposed to higher flood depths and water velocities. The prevalence of low-lying coastal plains leads to a rapid increase in land exposure to hazards when sea level exceeds a critical elevation of ~0.3 or 0.6 m, depending on location. At ~1 m of SLR, land that is roughly seven times the total modern beach area is exposed to one or more hazards. Projected increases in extent, magnitude, and rate of persistent SLR impacts suggest an urgency to engage in long-term planning immediately.