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Quantified Analysis of the Probability of Flooding in the Thames Estuary under Imaginable Worst-case Sea Level Rise Scenarios

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Richard Dawson, Professor Jim Hall



Most studies of the impacts of sea-level rise have explored scenarios of <1m during the 21st Century, even though larger rises are possible. This paper takes a different approach and explores and quantifies the likely flood impacts in the Thames estuary for a number of plausible, but unlikely sea level rise (SLR) scenarios. The collapse of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could cause global mean sea level to rise by 5-6m – here a timescale for such an event of 100 years is assumed to create a worst-case scenario. Combined with the 1,000 storm surge event, this would result in 1000km2 of land being frequently inundated. This area currently contains 1 million properties and their inundation would result in direct damages of at least £97.8 billion at 2003 prices. Smaller SLR scenarios, resulting from a partial collapse of the WAIS over 100 years also have significant potential impacts, demonstrating the vulnerability of the Thames estuary to SLR. Construction of a new storm surge barrier in the outer Thames Estuary is shown to provide greater resilience to unexpectedly high sea level rise because of the additional large flood storage capacity that the barrier would provide. This analysis has, for the first time, connected mechanisms of abrupt climate change and SLR with hydrodynamic modelling used to quantify impacts. In particular, it is recognised that future management strategies need to be adaptive and robust in order to manage the uncertainty associated with climate change.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dawson RJ, Hall JW, Bates PD, Nicholls RJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Water Resources Development

Year: 2005

Volume: 21

Issue: 4

Pages: 577-591

Print publication date: 01/12/2005

ISSN (print): 0790-0627

ISSN (electronic): 1360-0648

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/07900620500258380


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