Hidden vulnerability of US Atlantic coast to sea-level rise due to vertical land motion

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Nature Research

The vulnerability of coastal environments to sea-level rise varies spatially, particularly due to local land subsidence. However, high-resolution observations and models of coastal subsidence are scarce, hindering an accurate vulnerability assessment. We use satellite data from 2007 to 2020 to create high-resolution map of subsidence rate at mm-level accuracy for different land covers along the ~3,500 km long US Atlantic coast. Here, we show that subsidence rate exceeding 3mm per year affects most coastal areas, including wetlands, forests, agricultural areas, and developed regions. Coastal marshes represent the dominant land cover type along the US Atlantic coast and are particularly vulnerable to subsidence. We estimate that 58 to 100% of coastal marshes are losing elevation relative to sea level and show that previous studies substantially underestimate marsh vulnerability by not fully accounting for subsidence.