Scientists agree that, as a consequence of global warming, the oceans are rising and will continue to do so for centuries to come. But there is uncertainty around how much the sea will rise, how rapidly it will rise, and how it will impact New Zealand’s coastal areas.

The two main contributors to global sea level rise are thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of polar ice sheets. The NZ SeaRise programme will address knowledge gaps that are hampering our ability to anticipate and manage the impacts and risks of future sea level rise because of: (1) the uncertain contribution of the polar ice sheets to global and regional projections; and (2) a lack of understanding of the influence of vertical land movements and changes in sea-surface height in local predictions. 

We are building on our international reputation in ice sheet and sea-level research and have assembled New Zealand’s and the world’s leading experts to deliver three linked outputs.    

Impact statement 1: led by Associate Professor Nick Golledge

Deliver improved regional estimates of the magnitude and rate of sea level rise to 2100 and beyond for a range of future climate scenarios outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes 5th Assessment Report. These estimates will incorporate latest data on polar ice sheet melt, global glacier inputs, thermal expansion of the world’s oceans and regional differences in how melt water affects them. 

Impact statement 2: led by Professor Tim Naish

A set of location specific sea level rise projections for New Zealand’s coastline, taking into account new knowledge of vertical land movements. Maps showing coastline changes, and new information about the frequency of large coastal floods, will describe the consequences of sea level rise for our main coastal cities.

Impact statement 3: led by Dr Rob Bell

Based on enhanced projections of sea level rise, specific case studies will be undertaken in collaboration with project partners to improve regional adaptation to coastal hazards.