Science Center Objects

The importance of sea-level rise in shaping coastal landscapes is well recognized within the earth science community, but as with many natural hazards, communicating the risks associated with sea-level rise remains a challenge.

Comparison of predicted outcomes for Plum Island, Massachusetts

Comparison of predicted outcomes for Plum Island, Massachusetts. Figure from "Evaluation of dynamic coastal response to sea-level rise modifies inundation likelihood."

Topography is a key parameter that drives many of the processes involved in coastal change, and thus, up-to-date, high-resolution, high-accuracy elevation data are required to model the coastal environment. Maps of areas subject to potential inundation have great appeal to planners and managers concerned with the effects of sea level rise. However, many of the maps produced to date are simplistic representations derived from older, coarse elevation data.

In the last several years, vast amounts of high quality elevation data derived from lidar remote sensing have become available. Because of their high vertical accuracy and spatial resolution, these lidar data are an excellent source of up-to-date information from which to improve identification and delineation of vulnerable lands.

This project uses high-quality elevation data to identify and delineate lands that are vulnerable to inundation and other adverse effects from sea-level rise by the end of the century. The analysis includes a rigorous treatment of the uncertainty of the elevation data and its effects on the delineations of potential inundation zones. Other geospatial datasets are used to produce inventories of demographic, economic, environmental, and ecological variables within the vulnerable zones, all with the same approach of characterizing the uncertainty of the estimates.

The project collaborates with and contributes to larger USGS sea-level rise and coastal hazards efforts run by the Coastal and Marine Geology Program: the Sea-Level Rise Hazards and Decision Support Project, and the Coastal National Elevation Database (CoNED) Applications Project.