PI: Christopher Piecuch

Co-Is/Collaborators: Sönke Dangendorf, John Reager, Philip Thompson, Thomas Wahl, Felix Landerer


Vulnerable coastal communities across the United States are experiencing the effects of sea level rise in the present day. The frequency and severity of coastal sea level extremes are increasing and resulting in tangible and disruptive consequences on a regular basis. Sea level rise will continue to increase the frequency and severity of these events. The impacts will show up in new locations over the coming decades. Sea level rise is therefore not a problem only for the distant future. Decision makers need cutting-edge science tailored to applications such as establishing planning horizons, assessing design lifetimes of key infrastructure, and developing coastal management strategies.

Expected Significance

We will improve the scientific basis and usefulness of information made available to decision makers related to ongoing changes in the frequency and severity of coastal sea level extremes during the next roughly 30 years. We will use observations to document past changes in the astronomical tides, storm surges, and mean sea level along the coastal US and US territories. We will use observations and models to identify what processes in the Earth system caused those changes, and to quantify how those processes and changes interacted and influenced one another. We will use this new knowledge of past changes and their physical causes to make more confident projections of coastal extreme sea level statistics decades into the future. Our research will contribute to the NASA Sea Level Change Science Team’s larger goals of providing evidence of sea level change, quantifying contributions to sea level variability, and developing projections of sea level changes.


  1. Quantify the relative roles of different physical processes in contributing to past observed variability in coastal sea levels and extreme statistics.
  2. Quantify how these processes and their contributions to extreme sea level statistics will evolve into the future.

Deliverables (e.g. Datasets, Tools):

  1. Budgets of historical coastal sea level variability and extreme events observed in coastal tide-gauge data records.
  2. Projections of future sea- level extreme statistics at coastal US locations during the period 2020-2050.

Datasets Used: NASA satellite observations of sea-surface height and ocean bottom pressure; NASA ocean state estimates and other modeling products; coastal tide-gauge records; GPS observations of vertical land motion.