SEA-level rise, Storm surges, and Coastal Adaptation at the German Baltic Sea coast (SEASCApe Baltic)

Extreme sea levels are a major threat for coastal communities and they are expected to become more severe in a warming climate either due to rising mean sea levels or due to potential changes in storminess. This is particularly true for densely populated and microtidal environments that are particularly sensitive to sea-level changes, such as the German Baltic Sea coast. Despite this, the needed adaptation responses are poorly understood in this region due to a number of limitations. Adaptation risk management requires local statistical information on both heights and duration of extreme sea-level events, as well as on the upper tail of the uncertainty of future projections (high-end scenarios), both of which are currently not available for the German Baltic Sea coast. Another limitation is that both hydrodynamic and stylized methods for coastal flood impact assessments generally ignore the wider range of adaptation measures such as ecosystem-based protection options, accommodation options and retreat options, which are, however, essential for long-term strategic responses to sea-level rise. Finally, long-term adaptation decision making requires the application of robust decision-making methods, which are difficult to combine with the computationally expensive hydrodynamic models. Instead, stylized flood models are required, which, however are often not very accurate due to a lack of calibration.

The proposed project addresses these limitations and presents an integrated assessment of coastal flood risk and adaptation responses for the German Baltic Sea undertaken through a close collaboration of three work packages (WP) rooted in the fields of coastal engineering, coastal geography and economic decision analysis. The first WP develops local scale bivariate probabilistic information on both extreme sea-levels and their duration by combining historical observations with numerical modelling for the application of multi-variate extreme value statistics. This will be complemented with the generation of return water levels under high-end sea-level rise scenarios. The second WP develops improved methods for the socio-economic assessment of coastal flood impacts by combining hydrodynamic inundation modelling with protection, accommodation and retreat adaptation options. These methods are applied to assess current and future coastal flood risk for selected locations at the German Baltic Sea coast under a range of adaptation measures. The third WP develops a stylized model of coastal flooding that includes a wide range of adaptation options and is sufficiently fast that it can be run within a range of suitable robust decision-making methods, which will also be implemented in this WP. The stylized model will be calibrated through the hydrodynamic inundation modelling carried out in WP2 and then applied to develop coastal adaptation pathways for whole German Baltic Sea coast.

Publications of the SEASCApe Baltic project:

Hinkel, J., J.A. Church, J.M. Gregory, E. Lambert, G. Le Cozannet, J. Lowe, K.L. McInnes, R.J. Nicholls, T. van der Pol, and R. van de Wal (2019), Meeting User Needs for Sea Level RIse Information: A Decision Analysis Perspective, Earth's Future, 7, 320-337, doi:10.1029/2018EF001071.

Hinkel, J., J.C.J.H. Aerts, S. Brown, J.A. Jiménez, D. Lincke, R.J. Nicholls, P. Scussolini, A. Sanchez-Arcilla, A. Vafeidis, and K.A. Addo (2018), The ability of societies to adapt to twenty-first century sea-level rise, Nature Climate Change, 8, 570-578, doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0176-z.

Merkens, J., and A.T. Vafeidis (2018), Using Information of Settlement Patterns to Improve the Spatial Distribution of Population in Coastal Impact Assessments, Sustainability, 10(9), 3170, doi:10.3390/su10093170.

Van der Pol, T., and J. Hinkel (2019), Uncertainty Representations of Mean Sea-Level Change: A Telephone Game?, Climatic Change, 152 (3-4), 393-411, doi:10.1007/s10584-018-2359-z.

Wreford, A., R. Dittrich, and T. D. van der Pol (2020), The aded value of real options analysis for climate change adaptation, WIRE's Climate Change, doi:10.1002/wcc.642.

Related project at the 2nd SPP SeaLevel phase:

SEASCApe II - Compound Risks


Principal Investigators:


Dr. Jochen Hinkel

1) Global Climate Forum e.V. (GCF)

Adaptation and Social Learning

Neue Promenade 6,

10178 Berlin, Germany


2) Division of Resource Economics

Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institute and

Berlin Workshop in Institutional Analysis of Social-Ecological Systems (WINS)

Humboldt-University, Berlin

 tel:  +49 30-2060738-20

fax:  +49 30-2060738-33

Email: hinkel(at) 


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Jensen

Forschungsinstitut Wasser und Umwelt (FWU)

Lehrstuhl Wasserbau & Hydromechanik

Universität Siegen

Bauingenieurwesen Paul-Bonatz-Str. 9-11

57076 Siegen, Germany

Tel.: +49 271 740 2172

Mobile: +49 171 2081701

fax: +49 271 740 2722

Email: juergen.jensen(at)



Prof. Athanasios Vafeidis

Coastal Risks and Sea-Level Rise Research Group

Institute of Geography "The Future Ocean" Excellence Cluster

Christian-Albrechts University Kiel

Ludewig-Meyn-Str. 14

24098 Kiel Germany

Tel: +49 431 880 2946

Fax: +49 431 880 4658

Email: vafeidis(at)



Postdoctoral Researchers:


Dr. Daniel Lincke

Global Climate Forum e.V. (GCF)

Neue Promenade 6

10178 Berlin, Germany

Tel.: +49 30 2060738-22

Fax: +49 30 2060738-33

Email: daniel.lincke(at)


Dr. Thomas van der Pol

Global Climate Forum e.V. (GCF)

Neue Promenade 6

10178 Berlin, Germany

Tel.: +49 30-2060738-0

Fax: +49 30-2060738-33

Email: thomas.van.der.pol(at)


PhD Students:


Leigh MacPherson

Forschungsinstitut Wasser und Umwelt (FWU)

Lehrstuhl Wasserbau & Hydromechanik

Universität Siegen

Bauingenieurwesen Paul-Bonatz-Str. 9-11

57076 Siegen, Germany

Tel.: +49 431 880-1701

Email: leigh.macpherson(at)


Jan Merkens

Geographisches Institut

Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Ludewig-Meyn-Str. 14

24098 Kiel, Germany

Tel.: +49 (0)431 880 1701 

Email: merkens(at)