High tides, storm surges and wave action can cause coastal flooding
Sea levels in parts of Scotland will have risen by about 30cm by the 2080s, a Dundee University report suggests.
Researchers were analysing the risk of coastal flooding and ways to manage it.
More than 300 coastal floods since 1849 were studied, with the Solway Firth, Moray Firth, Aberdeenshire and Firth of Clyde having suffered the most.
They found that storms driven in from the Atlantic Ocean during periods of strong westerly winds were the main cause of coastal flooding.
Present-day flood risk arises from the combination of high tides, storm surges and wave action driven by the wind.
Over the past few decades, water levels 50-60cm above the highest predicted tide have been recorded at Aberdeen, Lerwick and Stornoway and 120cm at Millport.
The report estimates that by the 2080s sea levels will be about 20cm higher in the Clyde estuary, 28cm higher in Moray and Aberdeenshire and 32cm higher in the Northern Isles.
The researchers concluded that a short-term reactive approach was often taken by councils to dealing with coastal flood protection, rather than a long-term strategic approach.
However, they recognised that local authorities had funding restrictions and limited resources.
Professor Alan Werritty, who led the University of Dundee team compiling the report, said: "Until recently, coastal flooding has attracted less attention in Scotland than floods affecting cities and the countryside.
"With sea level rise and the threat posed by storm surges, now is the time to assess the risk posed by coastal flooding and ways of managing that risk.
"The Scottish Government is currently bringing in a Flooding Bill which will radically change the way we manage flood risk in Scotland.
"This report is designed to assist the Scottish Government in changing the way we react to coastal floods."
Andrea Johnstonova, freshwater policy officer with RSPB Scotland, said: "Climate change and sea level rise is going to increase the risk of coastal flooding in future, putting additional pressure on existing coastal defences and threatening coastal habitats and wildlife.
"We need to adapt to this change in a sustainable way and seek natural, long-term solutions like managed coastal realignment. Such an approach has the potential to ease the risk of flooding and create valuable new wetland habitat for breeding birds.
"There is currently a lack of innovative, sustainable projects to address the increased threat of coastal flooding and sea level rise. This should be the focus of the new Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Bill."