Assessment of Potential Hydrologic Effects of Sea Level Rise
Photo courtesy of Joanna Woerner
Photo courtesy of Carole Johnson
Preliminary results from this analysis suggest that simulated changes in sea level of less than 60 cm above present levels will result in substantial changes to the groundwater system including an increase in water-table altitude and increased potential for saltwater intrusion. The results from this hydrogeologic analysis will be integrated with related predictions of island erosion, overwash and inundation and marsh resilience developed by other parts of the larger project using a Bayesian decision network. This Bayesian network integrates a wide range of geologic, biologic, and hydrologic information on coastal systems and the related uncertainties in physical and process characterizations. The groundwater assessment and modeling fits into the larger constellation of processes to allow support decision making and evaluate specific management questions about alternatives for adapting to SLR, as well as to identify research needed to improve predictive skill.
Why is this research important?
Assateague Island, spanning the Maryland-Virginia border has been identified as one of the national seashores facing significant risk from the effects of global climate change. This vulnerability is due to the inherently dynamic and unstable nature of barrier islands, the natural resources present on the island, and to its location in a region experiencing some of the highest rates of relative sea level rise along the east coast of the United States. These changes will impact use of the island by both humans and fauna; specifically, the island serves as an important breeding ground and habitat for endangered species such as the Piping Plover. The impact of climate change and sea-level rise in particular, is expected to include changes in erosion rates, island morphology, marsh health, and groundwater processes.
Principal Investigator: John Masterson, Massachusetts-Rhode Island Water Science Center
Project Team: Michael Fienen, Wisconsin Water Science Center