Sea Level Rise in Saint JOhn

 

Ecosystem Risks

 

Coastal Hazards

Two studies have looked at regional projections for the 21st century for Saint John, New Brunswick. They account for regional factors that affect local sea level rise. Both studies are based on the most recent global projections published in the 5th Assessment Report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013. These studies can be found using the links at the bottom of this page.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international body of scientists tasked with conveying current scientific understanding of climate change to policy makers, global sea level rose by 19cm (± 2cm) between 1901 and 2010. The IPCCs graph above shows that global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century regardless of mitigation efforts going forward. The graph shows the two most extreme scenarios for future carbon emissions: blue (RCP2.6) represents a scenario whereby a drastic and sudden reduction of carbon emissions is achieved and red (RCP8.5) represents a slight reduction in carbon emissions by 2100 with an overall “business as usual” approach to climate change. Even though global sea levels will continue to rise, our efforts to mitigate climate change will impact the magnitude at which that rise occurs.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international body of scientists tasked with conveying current scientific understanding of climate change to policy makers, global sea level rose by 19cm (± 2cm) between 1901 and 2010. The IPCCs graph above shows that global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century regardless of mitigation efforts going forward. The graph shows the two most extreme scenarios for future carbon emissions: blue (RCP2.6) represents a scenario whereby a drastic and sudden reduction of carbon emissions is achieved and red (RCP8.5) represents a slight reduction in carbon emissions by 2100 with an overall “business as usual” approach to climate change. Even though global sea levels will continue to rise, our efforts to mitigate climate change will impact the magnitude at which that rise occurs.

Current understanding of sea level rise for Saint John based on the two regional studies looks like this:

  • Within the blue line scenario (significant and immediate mitigation), a sea level rise of 48cm ±29cm is projected by 2100 in Saint John relative to the levels recorded from 1986 to 2005 (James et al.). 
  • Within the red line scenario (“business as usual”), a sea level rise of 81cm ± 38cm is projected by 2100 in Saint John relative to the levels recorded from 1986 to 2005 (Daigle).
  • Within the red line scenario (“business as usual”), a sea level rise of 81cm ± 38cm is projected by 2100 in Saint John relative to the levels recorded from 1986 to 2005 (James et al.).

In the Bay of Fundy region, the majority of the coastal changes are primarily caused by tidal driven forces of erosion, and the changing of the sea level throughout geologic time (Shaw et al., 1994; Stea et al., 1998). The last glaciation in the region occurred 18 000 years ago and was known as the Wisconsin Glaciation and since its disappearance, certain regions along the Bay of Fundy have been submerging. It has been estimated that since people first arrived in this region, the sea level has risen approximately 40 m, and around 1.2 m since Pere Pierre Baird described the Saint John Harbour. Therefore, it can be assumed that certain areas that used to be be too high to be subjected to wave action, now are (Desplanque and Mossman, 2004). The latest IPCC report concluded that it was an extremely likely event, with more than 95% confidence, that the observed warming since the mid-20th century has been dominantly caused as the result of human activity (Daigle, 2014).

Global sea level rise is not distributed evenly over our oceans due to physical regional factors. The maps above show global models of sea level rise distribution under the two scenarios graphed above. The map on the left represents the blue line of the graph and the map on the right represents the red line of the graph. 

Global sea level rise is not distributed evenly over our oceans due to physical regional factors. The maps above show global models of sea level rise distribution under the two scenarios graphed above. The map on the left represents the blue line of the graph and the map on the right represents the red line of the graph. 

 

The impacts embarked upon marine and terrestrial ecosystems in regards to sea level rise and accelerated coastal erosion remains to be poorly quantified. However, in cases where there continues to be primarily historical sea level rise occurring, ecosystems naturally reestablish an equilibrium. As an example, within salt marshes if the rate of accretion is able to keep up with sea level rise, there would be a limited impact acted upon it. Consequently, if the sea level rise exceeds to ability of such marsh area to accrete, or where the shore is blocked by natural or artificial barriers, the loss of habitat and of valuable ecosystem services will be lost (Atkinson et al., 2016).  Moreover, this is an important consideration in the response to the East Coast’s coastal systems in regards to sea level rise as it holds the potential loss of important habitat through a process known as coastal squeeze. This process is not limited solely to tidal marshes but also estuaries, eel grasses, beaches, and mudflats which also provide valuable ecosystem services along our coastlines. 

In order for coastal squeeze to not occur, the extent of the new marsh system is largely dependent on the extent of its backwards migration on the landward slope which can provide room for its movement. However, though a high backshore relief can limit the backwards migration of the new marsh system, it is the artificial barriers of roads, causeways, sea walls, dikes, and foundation fill that are all dominant causes in coastal squeeze. 

These particular ecosystems provide a diverse array of services both for native wildlife and anthropogenic needs. These ecosystems provide: the provision of spawning and nursery habitats for the Atlantic’s aquatic species including commerce fish, crucial nesting habitats for multiple types of bird species, nutrient and absorption, and sediment retention for the area (Atkinson et al., 2016). In particular, the tidal flats in the Bay of Fundy provide a critical feeding habitat for migratory birds (Hicklin, 1987; Hill et al., 2013) and as such there is a global concern about the protected losses of intertidal habitats available for these birds (Galbraith et al., 2002). Without regards to accelerating sea level rise, it is predicted that two thirds of the coastal salt marshes within Atlantic Canada have been either drained and converted to agricultural land or diminished by industrial or urban development (Austen and Hanson, 2007).  

In the recent decades, coastal areas have become more industrial and urbanized due to their associated aesthetic and demand for waterfront living. As such, there has been considerable alterations occurring along our coastlines due to present and historical settlement patterns. Many of the coastal communities, in any area around Canada, are now characterized by significant residential and commercial waterfront developments whereas they have previously been warehouses, wharves, and traditional docks (Mercer Clarke et al., 2016). Most of the modern infrastructure in place as of right now has been designed to a standard that is based on historical climate conditions. However, no that there is evidence of increased storm frequencies, increased precipitation, as well as an increased sea level rise coupled with accelerated erosion rates, it is likely that these designs will be overtopped in the future. As such, any changes to the land cover in the coastal zone can destroy or impair any native species in those locations (Ban and Alder, 2008; Halpern et al., 2008; Burkett and Davidson, 2012) and any hard engineering technique emplaced to protect societal assets can also lead to the loss of intertidal habitats. Additionally, any increased amount of development within coastal zones can increase coastal squeeze and lead to a loss of valuable marshes, dunes, and beaches in the forthcoming decades (Jolicoeur and O’Carroll, 2007; Craft et al., 2009; Bernatchez et al., 2010; Feagin et al., 2010; Doody, 2013; Torio and Chmura, 2013; Cooper and Pile, 2014). 

 
Examples of some areas around Saint John, New Brunswick that will become increasingly vulnerable to storm surge effects as a result of the impacts of sea level rise over the next 100 years.  

Examples of some areas around Saint John, New Brunswick that will become increasingly vulnerable to storm surge effects as a result of the impacts of sea level rise over the next 100 years.

 

The extreme total sea level values, or flooding scenarios, have been calculated in the Saint John region to represent the worst possible scenario in regards to flooding. This scenario would occur where a storm surge event occurs near the high portion of the tidal cycle (the spring tide). Each of the return period statistics have been calculated and in turn provide a relative probability that a given storm surge would coincide with the spring tide. A return period represents the average time between two similar occurrences of an event that exceeded a given level (Daigle, 2014). 

The flood risk map for an approximately 1 m storm surge level for key areas within the city of Saint John, New Brunswick in the year 2100 assuming a sea level rise of 0.7 (prediction). Areas within the yellow lines for the Inner Harbour, Saint’s Rest Marsh, and Red Head Road are flood lines in a 1 m storm surge landing at MHHW taking into account a 0.7 m sea level rise. The Marsh Creek flood map is from Drisdelle (2006) based on LiDAR altimetry data showing flood lines for a 4.6 m sea level in the year of 2100 which roughly corresponds to the 8.8 m chart datum.   

The flood risk map for an approximately 1 m storm surge level for key areas within the city of Saint John, New Brunswick in the year 2100 assuming a sea level rise of 0.7 (prediction). Areas within the yellow lines for the Inner Harbour, Saint’s Rest Marsh, and Red Head Road are flood lines in a 1 m storm surge landing at MHHW taking into account a 0.7 m sea level rise. The Marsh Creek flood map is from Drisdelle (2006) based on LiDAR altimetry data showing flood lines for a 4.6 m sea level in the year of 2100 which roughly corresponds to the 8.8 m chart datum. 

 



References

Updated Sea Level Rise and Flooding Estimates for New Brunswick Coastal Sections Based in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report (Daigle, R.J., 2014)

Relative Sea-level Projections in Canada and the Adjacent Mainland United States (James, T.S. et. al, 2014) 

Fifth Assessment Report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013)


Adaptation Measures for Greater Moncton Area, New Brunswick (Rep.). (2011). Fredericton: AMEC Earth & Environmental. Retrieved July 19, 2016, from http://atlanticadaptation.ca/sites/discoveryspace.upei.ca.acasa/files/Adaptation_Measures_Greater_Moncton-2011.pdf

Atkinson, D.E., Forbes, D.L. and James, T.S. (2016): Dynamic coasts in a changing climate; in Canada’s Marine Coasts in a Changing Climate, (ed.) D.S. Lemmen, F.J. Warren, T.S. James and C.S.L. Mercer Clarke; Government of Canada, Ottawa, ON, p. 27-68.

Austen, E. and Hanson, A. (2007): An analysis of wetland policy in Atlantic Canada; Canadian Water Resources Journal, v. 32, no. 3, p. 163–178

Ban, N. and Alder, J. (2008): How wild is the ocean? Assessing the intensity of the anthropogenic marine activities in British Columbia, Canada; Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, v. 18, no. 1, p. 55–85. doi:10.1002/aqc.816

Bernatchez, P., Toubal, T., Van-Wierts, S., Drejza, S. and Friesinger, S. (2010): Caractérisation géomorphologique et sédimentologique des unités hydrosédimentaires de la baie de Plaisance et de Pointe-aux-Loups, route 199, Îles-de-la-Madeleine; report prepared by the Laboratoire de dynamique et de gestion intégrée des zones côtières, Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR) for the ministère des Transports du Québec, 177 p., .http://www.bv.transports.gouv.qc.ca/mono/1131300.pdf

Bleakney, J.S.B. 1986. A sea-level scenario for Minas Basin. In Effects of changes in sea level and tidal range on the Gulf of Maine – Bay of Fundy system. Edited by G.R. Daborn. Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research, Publication no. 1, pp. 123–125.

Burkett, V. and Davidson, M., editors (2012): Coastal impacts, adaptation, and vulnerabilities: a technical input report to the 2013 national climate assessment; National Climate Assessment Regional Technical Input Report Series, Island Press, Washington, District of Columbia, 150 p.

Climate Change Adaptation Measures for Greater Moncton Area, New Brunswick (Rep.). (2011, December 21). Retrieved July 13, 2016, from AMEC Earth & Environmental website: http://atlanticadaptation.ca/sites/discoveryspace.upei.ca.acasa/files/Adaptation_Measures_Greater_Moncton-2011.pdf

Cooper, J. and Pile, J. (2014): The adaptation-resistance spectrum: a classification of contemporary adaptation approaches to climate-related coastal change; Ocean and Coastal Management, v. 94, p. 90–98.

Craft, C., Clough, J., Ehman, J., Joye, S., Park, R., Pennings, S., Guo, H. and Machmuller, M. (2009): Forecasting the effects of accelerated sea-level rise on tidal marsh ecosystem services; Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, v. 7, no. 2, p. 73–78.

Daigle, R. J. (2014). Updated Sea-Level Rise and Flooding Estimates for New Brunswick Coastal Sections: Based on IPCC 5th Assessment Report (Vol. 2, pp. 1-55, Rep.). Retrieved August 4, 2016, from ACASA.
Prepared for New Brunswick Department of Environment Climate Change Secretariat

Desplanque, C., & Mossman, D. J. (2004). Tides and their seminal impact on the geology, geography, history, and socio-economics of the Bay of Fundy, eastern Canada. Atlantic Geology, 40(1), 1-130. http://dx.doi.org/10.4138/729

Doody, J.P. (2013): Coastal squeeze and managed realignment in southeast England: does it tell us anything about the future?; Ocean & Coastal Management, v. 79, p. 34–41.

Fader, G.B.J. 1996. Chapter 2. Aggregate assessment and sediment transport. In The Physical Environment of the Bay of Fundy – Fundy Issues Workshop, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, January 29, 1996. Edited by J.A. Percy, P.G. Wells and A Evans

Fairbridge, R.W. 1966. The encyclopaedia of oceanography. Encyclopaedia of Earth Sciences Series, v.1. Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, 1021 p

Feagin, R.A., Martinez, M.L., Mendoza-Gonzalez, G. and Costanza, R. (2010): Salt marsh zonal migration and ecosystem service change in response to global sea level rise: a case study from an urban region; Ecology and Society, v. 15, no. 4, art. 14, .

Fundy Coastal Zone Study Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick (Vol. 1). (1982). Mississauga, ON: Hunter and Associates. Prepared for Mineral Resources Branch of the Department of Natural Resources New Brunswick

Godin, G. 1992. Possibility of rapid changes in the tide of the Bay of Fundy, based on a scrutiny of the records from Saint John. Continental Shelf Research, 12, pp. 327–338.

Halpern, B.S., Walbridge, S., Selkoe, K.A., Kappel, C.V., Micheli, F., D’Agrosa, C., Bruno, J.F., Casey, K.S., Ebert, C., Fox, H.E., Rujita, R., Heinmann, D., Lenihan, H.S., Madin, E.M.P., Perry, M.T., Selig, E.R., Spalding, M., Steneck, R. and Watson, R. (2008): A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems; Science, v. 319, no. 5865, p. 948–952.

Hicklin, P.W. (1987): The migration of shorebirds in the Bay of Fundy; Wilson Bulletin, v. 99, no. 4, p. 540–570

Hill, P.R., Butler, R.W., Elner, R.W., Houser, C., Kirwan, M.L., Lambert, A., Lintern, D.G., Mazzotti, S., Shaw, A., Sutherland, T., Levings, C., Morrison, S., Petersen, S. and Solomon, S. (2013): Impacts of sea level rise on Roberts Bank (Fraser Delta, British Columbia); Natural Resources Canada, Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 7259, 71 p., .http://geogratis.gc.ca/api/en/nrcan-rncan/ess-sst/c4813e59-f100-599f-8899-685fd6a34369.html

Galbraith, H., Jones, R., Park, R., Clough, J., Herrod-Julius, S., Harrington, B. and Page, G. (2002): Global climate change and sea level rise: potential losses of intertidal habitat for shorebirds; Waterbirds, v. 25, no. 2, p. 173–183. doi:10.1675/1524-4695(2002)925[0173:GCCASK]2.0;2 

Jolicoeur, S. and O’Carroll, S. (2007): Sandy barriers, climate change and long-term planning of strategic coastal infrastructures, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Gulf of St. Lawrence (Québec, Canada); Landscape and Urban Planning, v. 81, no. 4, p. 287–298. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2007.01.011

Lemmen, D.S., Warren, F.J., James, T.S. and Mercer Clarke, C.S.L. editors (2016): Canada’s Marine Coasts in a Changing Climate; Government of Canada, Ottawa, ON, 274p.

Lieske, D. J., & Bornemann, J. (2012, October). Coastal Dykelands in the Tantramar Area: Impacts of Climate Change on Dyke Erosion and Flood Risk (Rep.). Retrieved July 13, 2016, from ACASA website: http://atlanticadaptation.ca/sites/discoveryspace.upei.ca.acasa/files/Tantramar-CoastalDykelands-ImpactsofClimateChange-MtA-2011.pdf

Lieske, D. J., Bornemann, J., Wilson, J., & Trenholm, R. (2012, October). Forecasting Economic Damages from Storm Surge Flooding : A Case Study in the Tantramar Region of New Brunswick (Rep.). Retrieved July 19, 2016, from ACASA website: http://arcgis.mta.ca/docs/ForecastingEconomicDamagesfromTantramarStormSurgeFlooding.pdf

Mercer Clarke, C.S.L., Manuel, P. and Warren, F.J. (2016): The coastal challenge; in Canada’s Marine Coasts in a Changing Climate, (ed.) D.S. Lemmen, F.J. Warren, T.S. James and C.S.L. Mercer Clarke; Government of Canada, Ottawa, ON, p. 69-98.

Reeves, I. (2008). Climate Change Impacts & Adaptation: Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada (T. Vickers, Ed.). Saint John: Atlantic Coastal Action Program.

Savard, J.-P., van Proosdij, D. and O’Carroll, S. (2016): Perspectives on Canada’s East Coast region; in Canada’s Marine Coasts in a Changing Climate, (ed.) D.S. Lemmen, F.J. Warren, T.S. James and C.S.L. Mercer Clarke; Government of Canada, Ottawa, ON, p. 99-152.

Shaw, J., Taylor, R.B., Forbes, D.L., Ruz, M-H., & Solomon, S. 1994. Sensitivity of the Canadian coast to sea-level rise. Geological Survey of Canada Open File Report, no. 2825, 114 p. 
Spooner, I., Batterson, M., Catto, N., Liverman, D., Broster, B. E., Kearns, K., . . . McAskill, G. W. (2013). Slope failure hazard in Canada's Atlantic Provinces: A review. Atlantic Geology, 49, 1-14. Retrieved July 27, 2016, from https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/ag/issue/view/1525

Stea, R.R., Piper, D.J.W., Fader, G.B.J., & Boyd, R. 1998. Wisconsin glacial and sea-level history of Maritime Canada and the adjacent continental shelf: a correlation of land and sea events. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 110, pp. 821–845.

Stewart, P.L., Rutherford, R.J, Levy, H.A., and Jackson, J.M. 2003.  Land Use Planning and Coastal Areas in the Maritime Provinces. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 2443: x + 165 pages.

The Top 25 Storms of the Past 25 Years. (2014, April 23). Retrieved July 19, 2016, from https://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/the-top-25-storms-of-the-past-25-years/23114/0
Top Weather Events of the 20th Century. (2013, June 19). Retrieved July 19, 2016, from http://www.ec.gc.ca/meteo-weather/default.asp?lang=En&n=6A4A3AC5-1

Torio, D.D. and Chmura, G.L. (2013): Assessing coastal squeeze of tidal wetlands; Journal of Coastal Research, v. 29, no. 5, p. 1049–1061. doi:10.2112/ JCOASTRES-D-12-00162

Wilson, J., Trenholm, R., Bornemann, J., & Lieske, D. (2012, October). Forecasting Economic Damages from Storm Surge Flooding : A Case Study in the Tantramar Region of New Brunswick (Rep.). Retrieved July 13, 2016, from ACASA website: http://atlanticadaptation.ca/sites/discoveryspace.upei.ca.acasa/files/Tantramar-ForecastingEconomicDamages-MtA-2012.pdf

Winchester, A., & Lane, P. (2015). PotashCorp Marine Terminal Expansion Environmental Impact Assessment (3rd ed., pp. 38-62, Rep.). Fredericton, NB: CBCL.

Google+