|River deltas and sea-level rise
In: Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Annual Reviews: Palo Alto, Calif.,. ISSN 0084-6597; e-ISSN 1545-4495, meer
river delta; sea-level rise; geomorphology; climate change; coast; sedimentary geology; shoreline
- Nienhuis, J.H.
- Kim, W.
- Milne, G.A.
- Quock, M.
- Slangen, A.B.A., meer
- Törnqvist, T.E.
Future sea-level rise poses an existential threat for many river deltas, yet quantifying the effect of sea-level changes on these coastal landforms remains a challenge. Sea-level changes have been slow compared to other coastal processes during the instrumental record, such that our knowledge comes primarily from models, experiments, and the geologic record. Here we review the current state of science on river delta response to sea-level change, including models and observations from the Holocene until 2300 CE. We report on improvements in the detection and modeling of past and future regional sea-level change, including a better understanding of the underlying processes and sources of uncertainty. We also see significant improvements in morphodynamic delta models. Still, substantial uncertainties remain, notably on present and future subsidence rates in and near deltas. Observations of delta submergence and land loss due to modern sea-level rise also remain elusive, posing major challenges to model validation.▪ There are large differences in the initiation time and subsequent delta progradation during the Holocene, likely from different sea-level and sediment supply histories.▪ Modern deltas are larger and will face faster sea-level rise than during their Holocene growth, making them susceptible to forced transgression.▪ Regional sea-level projections have been much improved in the past decade and now also isolate dominant sources of uncertainty, such as the Antarctic ice sheet.▪ Vertical land motion in deltas can be the dominant source of relative sea-level change and the dominant source of uncertainty; limited observations complicate projections.▪ River deltas globally might lose 5% (∼35,000 km2) of their surface area by 2100 and 50% by 2300 due to relative sea-level rise under a high-emission scenario.