Potential inundation due to rising sea levels in the San Francisco Bay Region

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Knowles, Noah
March 2009
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An increase in the rate of sea level rise is one of the primary impacts of projected global climate change. To assess potential inundation associated with a continued acceleration of sea level rise, the highest resolution elevation data available were assembled from various sources and mosaicked to cover the land surfaces of the San Francisco Bay region. Next, to quantify high water levels throughout the Bay, a hydrodynamic model of the San Francisco Estuary was driven by a projection of hourly water levels at the Presidio. This projection was based on a combination of climate model outputs and empirical models and incorporates astronomical, storm surge, El Niño, and long‐term sea level rise influences.
Based on the resulting data, maps of areas vulnerable to inundation were produced, corresponding to specific amounts of sea level rise and recurrence intervals. These maps portray areas where inundation will likely be an increasing concern. In the North Bay, wetland survival and developed fill areas are at risk. In Central and South bays, a key feature is the bay‐ward periphery of developed areas that would be newly vulnerable to inundation. Nearly all municipalities adjacent to South Bay face this risk to some degree. For the Bay as a whole, as early as 2050 under this scenario, the one‐year peak event nearly equals the 100‐year peak event in 2000. Maps of vulnerable areas are presented and some implications discussed.


Knowles, N. 2009. Potential inundation due to rising sea levels in the San Francisco Bay Region. California Climate Change Center, California Energy Commission, Sacramento, CA. Retrieved from