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Natural hazards, Physical oceanography

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We develop an aggregated extreme sea level (ESL) indicator for the contiguous United States coastline, which is comprised of separate indicators for mean sea level (MSL) and storm surge climatology (SSC). We use water level data from tide gauges to estimate interannual to multi-decadal variability of MSL and SSC and identify coastline stretches where the observed changes are coherent. Both the MSL and SSC indicators show significant fluctuations. Indicators of the individual components are combined with multi-year tidal contributions into aggregated ESL indicators. The relative contribution of the different components varies considerably in time and space. Our results highlight the important role of interannual to multi-decadal variability in different sea level components in exacerbating, or reducing, the impacts of long-term MSL rise over time scales relevant for coastal planning and management. Regularly updating the proposed indicator will allow tracking changes in ESL posing a threat to many coastal communities, including the identification of periods where the likelihood of flooding is particularly large or small.

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Scientific Data, v. 6, art. 326

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