One third of the global coastline consists of sandy beaches. These beaches constantly change due to erosion and sand accumulation. This process could be heavily influenced by climate change and rising sea levels. Since the population and the density of critical infrastructure are higher near the coasts, what happens to the coastlines is an important topic for climate research.
Michalis I. Vousdoukas, European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Ispra, Italy, and colleagues have analyzed and predicted trends in global shoreline changes, factoring in sea-level rise caused by climate change and changes in weather events such as storm surges. The team extrapolated historical trends and added a correction for different climate change scenarios.
The researchers found that almost half of the world’s sandy beaches could be gone by the end of the century. If, however, emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced, 40 % of this shoreline retreat could be prevented. This prediction is based on a so-called RCP 4.5 climate model, where emissions peak around 2040 and then decline. The projected shoreline changes could heavily influence coastal hazard protection, tourism, and the economies of countries. According to the team, effective coastal planning and adaptive measures could mitigate some of these effects.
- Sandy coastlines under threat of erosion,
Michalis I. Vousdoukas, Roshanka Ranasinghe, Lorenzo Mentaschi, Theocharis A. Plomaritis, Panagiotis Athanasiou, Arjen Luijendijk, Luc Feyen,
Nat. Clim. Change 2020.