Coastal flooding from extreme sea levels will increase in frequency and magnitude as global climate change forces sea-level rise (SLR). Extreme sea-level events, rare in the recent past (i.e., once per century), are projected to occur at least once per year by 2050 along many of the world’s coastlines. Information showing where and how built-environment exposure increases with SLR, enables timely adaptation before damaging thresholds are reached. This study presents a first national-scale assessment of New Zealand’s built-environment exposure to future coastal flooding. We use an analytical risk model framework, “RiskScape”, to enumerate land, buildings and infrastructure exposed to a present and future 100-year extreme sea-level flood event (ESL100
). We used high-resolution topographic data to assess incremental exposure to 0.1 m SLR increases. This approach detects variable rates in the potential magnitude and timing of future flood exposure in response to SLR over decadal scales. National built-land and asset exposure to ESL100
flooding doubles with less than 1 m SLR, indicating low-lying areas are likely to experience rapid exposure increases from modest increases in SLR expected within the next few decades. This highlights an urgent need for national and regional actions to anticipate and adaptively plan to reduce future socio-economic impacts arising from flood exposure to extreme sea-levels and SLR.
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