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Decision Support Framework for Sea-level Rise Impacts

Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Sea-level Rise Impacts for the U.S. Atlantic Coast

One of the principal impacts of sea-level rise will be the loss of land in coastal areas through erosion and submergence of the coastal landscape. However, changes vary across space and time and are difficult to predict because landforms such as beaches, barriers, and marshes can respond to sea level rise in complicated, dynamic ways. This project developed decision support models to address critical management decisions at regional and local scales, considering both dynamic and simple inundation responses to sea-level rise.

A USGS and Columbia University team evaluated sea-level rise impacts in the northeastern U.S. The project developed a reconnaissance method to distinguish coastal areas in the northeastern U.S. (Virginia-Maine) that will likely experience a predominantly inundation (e.g., flooding) response to sea-level rise from those that will likely respond dynamically by moving or changing (e.g., landforms such as barrier islands and marshes). They found that areas likely to inundate include urban regions of intense development and/or coastal engineering, as well as bedrock coasts. Alternatively, areas likely to respond dynamically include beaches, unconsolidated cliffs, barrier islands, and wetlands. By distinguishing the response to a variety of sea level projections in these areas, future work can inform appropriate scientific research and decision support efforts.

The decision support models for sea-level rise have been incorporated into the North Atlantic LCC modeling framework "Designing Sustainable Landscapes" throughout the Northeast Region in development by Kevin McGarigal et al. at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and partners. The intent is that predicted sea level rise impacts can be combined with other predicted effects of climate change, urban growth, conservation and management to understand combined habitat impacts and thereby guide decision making across a number of disciplines.

This project is funded by the Northeast Climate Science Center, which maintains a project page on their website.

This work is part of a larger USGS Project, Sea-level Rise Hazards and Decision Support. USGS maintains their own project page for the Coastal Landscape Response to Sea-Level Rise Assessment for the Northeastern United States, which contains links to publications, spatial data, and references for the project. It builds off previous work in the late 1990s/early 2000s that covered the continental, coastal U.S. (National Assessment of Coastal Vulnerability to Sea-Level Rise).

Information on this project can also be found in its ScienceBase listing.

The project is complete. The project team has delivered a final report with spatial data, published one paper and continues to deliver presentations on this work.

NALCC funding: $0

Northeast Climate Science Center funding: $14,700

U.S. Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center funding: $59,600

East coast of the U.S. from Virginia to Maine.

Publications and Reports

Lentz, Erika E., E. Robert Thieler , Nathaniel G. Plant, Sawyer R. Stippa,  Radley M. Horton, 2016, Dean B. Gesch, Evaluation of dynamic coastal response to sea-level rise modifies inundation likelihood. Nature Climate Change online doi:10.1038/nclimate2957

Thieler,  E. Robert, Plant, Nathaniel G., Gesch Dean B., Horton, Radley M. 2014. A research and decision support framework to evaluate sea-level rise impacts in the northeastern U.S. Northeast Climate Science Center Final Report.

Masterson, John P., Fienen Michael N., Thieler Robert E., Gesch Dean B., Gutierrez Benjamin T., and Plant Nathaniel G. 2013. Effects of sea-level rise on barrier island groundwater system dynamics - ecohydrological implications. Ecohydrology.

Spatial Data

Lentz, E.E., Stippa, S.R., Thieler, E.R., Plant, N.G., Gesch, D.B., and Horton, R.M. 2015, Coastal landscape response to sea-level rise assessment for the northeastern United States: U.S. Geological Survey data release.

Presentations

Lentz, Erika E. et al. 2016. A Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Coastal Landscape Change. Northeast Climate Science Center. April 2016.

Hurricane Sandy Tidal Marsh Resiliency Coordination Workshop. December 8-9 2014, "A Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Sea-Level Rise Impacts in the Northeastern U.S". Lentz, E., R. Theiler, N. Plant, and S. Stippa.

University of New Hampshire, ICNet, February 2014, "Forecasting Coastal Impacts Using Uncertain Sea-level Rise Projections", R. Thieler, N. Plant, B. Gutierrez, E. Lentz, M. Fienen, J. Masterson, D. Gesch, S. Stippa, K. Gieder, S. Karpanty, A. Hecht, R. Horton, A. Milliken, K. McGarigal.

Northeast Climate Science Center, February 2014, "Sea-level Rise, Coastal Change, and Decision Making in an Uncertain Future", R. Thieler, N. Plant, B. Gutierrez, E. Lentz, M. Fienen, J. Masterson, D. Gesch, S. Stippa, K. Gieder, S. Karpanty, A. Hecht, R. Horton, A. Milliken, K. McGarigal.

Woods Hole Research Center, Cape Cod and Islands Climate Change and Energy Conference, September 2013, "Sea-level rise and coastal change: likely impacts and possible responses", R. Thieler. (in-person presentation)

Presentation at Northeast Regional Oceans Council Meeting, November 2013: "A Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Sea-Level Rise Impacts in the Northeastern U.S." E. Lentz, R. Thieler, N. Plant, S. Stippa, D. Gesch, and R. Horton.

Webinar to North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative Coastal and Marine Technical Team, February 2013: "Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Sea-Level Rise Impacts for the U.S. Atlantic Coast" E.Lentz, N. Plant, R. Thieler, A. Turecek.

Publications and Reports

Lentz, Erika E., E. Robert Thieler , Nathaniel G. Plant, Sawyer R. Stippa,  Radley M. Horton, 2016, Dean B. Gesch, Evaluation of dynamic coastal response to sea-level rise modifies inundation likelihood. Nature Climate Change online doi:10.1038/nclimate2957

Thieler,  E. Robert, Plant, Nathaniel G., Gesch Dean B., Horton, Radley M. 2014. A research and decision support framework to evaluate sea-level rise impacts in the northeastern U.S. Northeast Climate Science Center Final Report.

Masterson, John P., Fienen Michael N., Thieler Robert E., Gesch Dean B., Gutierrez Benjamin T., and Plant Nathaniel G. 2013. Effects of sea-level rise on barrier island groundwater system dynamics - ecohydrological implications. Ecohydrology.

Spatial Data

Lentz, E.E., Stippa, S.R., Thieler, E.R., Plant, N.G., Gesch, D.B., and Horton, R.M. 2015, Coastal landscape response to sea-level rise assessment for the northeastern United States: U.S. Geological Survey data release.

Presentations

Lentz, Erika E. et al. 2016. A Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Coastal Landscape Change. Northeast Climate Science Center. April 2016.

Hurricane Sandy Tidal Marsh Resiliency Coordination Workshop. December 8-9 2014, "A Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Sea-Level Rise Impacts in the Northeastern U.S". Lentz, E., R. Theiler, N. Plant, and S. Stippa.

University of New Hampshire, ICNet, February 2014, "Forecasting Coastal Impacts Using Uncertain Sea-level Rise Projections", R. Thieler, N. Plant, B. Gutierrez, E. Lentz, M. Fienen, J. Masterson, D. Gesch, S. Stippa, K. Gieder, S. Karpanty, A. Hecht, R. Horton, A. Milliken, K. McGarigal.

Northeast Climate Science Center, February 2014, "Sea-level Rise, Coastal Change, and Decision Making in an Uncertain Future", R. Thieler, N. Plant, B. Gutierrez, E. Lentz, M. Fienen, J. Masterson, D. Gesch, S. Stippa, K. Gieder, S. Karpanty, A. Hecht, R. Horton, A. Milliken, K. McGarigal.

Woods Hole Research Center, Cape Cod and Islands Climate Change and Energy Conference, September 2013, "Sea-level rise and coastal change: likely impacts and possible responses", R. Thieler. (in-person presentation)

Presentation at Northeast Regional Oceans Council Meeting, November 2013: "A Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Sea-Level Rise Impacts in the Northeastern U.S." E. Lentz, R. Thieler, N. Plant, S. Stippa, D. Gesch, and R. Horton.

Webinar to North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative Coastal and Marine Technical Team, February 2013: "Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Sea-Level Rise Impacts for the U.S. Atlantic Coast" E.Lentz, N. Plant, R. Thieler, A. Turecek.