Updating Maryland's Sea-Level Rise Projections

Led by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the report was prepared by a panel of scientific experts in response to Governor Martin O’Malley’s Executive Order on Climate Change and “Coast Smart” Construction. The 21-member panel reviewed projections from Maryland’s 2008 Climate Action Plan and provided updated recommendations based on new scientific results that can better inform projections of sea level rise for the state.

According to the analysis, Maryland should plan for the state’s coastal waters to rise by 2.1 feet by the year 2050 and by 3.7 feet or more by the century’s end. A rise in sea level is also likely to cause higher tides in the Bay, where an increase of about 3 feet in sea level could lead to an increase of 8 inches in the tidal range in the upper Bay and at the heads of some of its tidal rivers. These estimates were made based on the various contributors to sea level rise: thermal expansion of ocean volume as a result of warming, the melting of glaciers and Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, changing ocean dynamics such as the slowing of the Gulf Stream, and vertical land movement. With its 3,100 miles of tidal shoreline and low-lying rural and urban lands, Maryland is one of the most vulnerable to sea-level rise in the nation.

Using the National Research Council’s (NRC) projections of global mean sea-level rise as a starting point, projections of relative sea level rise in Maryland were made through adjustment for the “fingerprint” effects of the land-ice contributions, as well as inclusion of the dynamic ocean contributions and the effects of vertical land movement. The report explains the factors that will determine sea level rise projections for the state including: Global Mean Sea Level, Regional Ocean Dynamics, Vertical Land Movement, and Changes in Tides and Storm Surges. The report wraps up with "Practical Advice for Adaptive Planning" with broad recommendations based on the projections.

Governor O’Malley established the Maryland Commission on Climate Change on April 20, 2007. The Commission produced a Plan of Action that included a comprehensive climate change impact assessment, a greenhouse gas reduction strategy, and actions for reducing Maryland’s vulnerability to climate change. On December 28, 2012, Governor O’Malley issued an executive order that requires State agencies to consider the risk of coastal flooding and sea level rise to capital projects.


Publication Date: June 26, 2013

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Donald F. Boesch
  • Larry P. Atkinson
  • William C. Boicourt
  • John D. Boon
  • Donald R. Cahoon
  • Robert A. Dalrymple
  • Tal Ezer
  • Benjamin P. Horton
  • Zoe P. Johnson
  • Robert E. Kopp
  • Ming Li
  • Richard H. Moss
  • Adam Parris
  • Christopher K. Sommerfield

Related Organizations:


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Resource Types:

  • Assessment

States Affected:


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