New Zealand sea level rising more quickly than forecast

New Zealand sea level rising more quickly than forecast

Their prognosis means authorities have much less time than expected to introduce climate adaptation plans

The sea level is rising twice as fast as previously forecast around parts of New Zealand, according to research published Monday, putting the country's two largest cities at risk decades earlier than expected.

Government-backed data amassed from around the country's coastline found some areas are already sinking three to four millimetres per year, speeding up a long-expected threat.

The projections, labelled "a bit terrifying" by one expert, are the result of an extensive five-year, government-funded research programme — NZ SeaRise — that was the combined work of dozens of local and international scientists.

Their prognosis means authorities have much less time than expected to introduce climate adaptation plans, including relocating coastal communities.

NZ SeaRise co-leader Tim Naish, a professor at Wellington's Victoria University, said while the global sea level is expected to rise about half a metre by 2100, for substantial parts of New Zealand it could be closer to a metre because the land is sinking at the same time.

New Zealand sea level rising more quickly than forecast
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It is stark news for the capital city, Wellington, which could expect 30 centimetre sea level rise by 2040 — a level that had not been expected before 2060.

With that rate of rise, Wellington residents can expect once-a-century flood damage every year on average.

"We have less time to act," Naish said. "You are going to see the impacts of quite damaging sea level rise much sooner than we thought. Roads and properties will be inundated.

"Yes, it is a bit terrifying but there is still time and I think that is the way to look at it."

Data shows the southeast coastline of the more-populated North Island is the most exposed, but numerous seaside communities and towns will be hit.

Auckland, which with 1.7 million residents is comfortably the country's largest city, is especially vulnerable.

It is predicted that the sea level will rise 50 percent faster in the city's downtown waterfront and in several central-city suburbs, with wide-ranging implications for house prices and insurance rates.

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