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Pilot Tools for Estimating Waves and Sea-level Extremes under Conditions of Uncertain Climate Change


Extreme sea level is a combination of storm surge, tides, and ocean waves. As a result of climate change, rising sea levels and declining sea ice will cause changes in extreme sea level, which will impact Canada's coastlines and the infrastructure in these areas. Understanding these changes is essential for developing adaptation strategies that can minimize the harmful effects that may result.

When engineers and planners develop strategies for protecting infrastructure, they take into account the vertical allowance--the amount that infrastructure should be raised above its current height to maintain the same risk of flooding that exists today. To develop and implement a methodology for adapting to rising sea-level in Atlantic Canada, researchers sought guidance from the lead scientist in the implementation of a sea-level rise planning tool in Australia. This tool incorporates the uncertainty in the estimates of future sea level rise to provide an accurate estimate of the vertical allowance.

Results: Using a state-of-the-art, high resolution computer model, researchers generated estimates of average waves from 1970 to 1999 in Atlantic Canada, with specific information at critical coastal locations (i.e., Halifax, Rimouski, and St. John's). They determined average winds and wave heights as well as the value of the greatest 10 per cent of wind strengths and wave heights. Researchers also used the model to estimate how waves may change based on three different potential climate change scenarios from 2040 to 2069, one of which represents the consequences of having zero sea ice.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)



Principal Investigator(s)

Blair Greenan
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Will Perrie
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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