5A.1 Providing Tools To Help Communities Address Coastal Inundation And Sea Level Rise

Tuesday, 19 July 2011: 1:30 PM
Salon A (Asheville Renaissance)
Jodie Sprayberry, NOAA, Charleston, SC

Planning for climate change-related impacts such as coastal inundation and sea level rise can appear to be an overwhelming task for communities. The changes that need to be made can be perceived as drastic or too costly. Some believe the projections are too far in the future to be happening in their tangible lifetimes. Most planning decisions are made locally, so political issues surrounding climate change may cause inaction or indifference. Some still refuse to believe that climate change is even happening. Others may believe that information is lacking on how future coastal flooding events will be worsened by sea level rise.

The Coastal Inundation Toolkit is a resource that can help communities sort through inundation issues and begin effective planning for climate-change-related impacts such as sea level rise. The Coastal Inundation Toolkit enables communities to identify their current inundation issues, understand what future impacts could be, and learn how to adapt to the changing climate. The toolkit is part of the Digital Coast initiative, which provides data, tools, training, and resources that can help communities with many coast-related concerns. Digital Coast is a multi-partner initiative led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Services Center.

The Coastal Inundation Toolkit encompasses a wide variety of resources. It provides a community-level approach using spatial information to demonstrate how communities can begin to address their current issues related to coastal inundation, sea level rise, and other future impacts of climate change. The toolkit also reminds users that the current issues they face may become exacerbated with sea level rise. It includes basic information such as definitions and examples of different types of coastal inundation, and why communities should be concerned. It also demonstrates how communities can identify their inundation hazards and gain access to specific community information and characteristics that will enable them to begin assessing risks and vulnerabilities.

For more technical users, the toolkit Map section provides methods for creating inundation maps, ranging from collecting appropriate elevation data to creating a water surface and producing a map for visualizing impacts. A more detailed version of this information is compiled into a Coastal Inundation Mapping Guidebook. The Coastal Inundation Toolkit also has a section on how to communicate inundation threats to a community by defining the target audience, engaging stakeholders, and communicating risk in a clear, succinct way. Among the resources available in the Coastal Inundation Toolkit are two examples of visualization tools, The Flood Exposure Tool, and The Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer.

The Flood Exposure Tool helps individual counties identify and visualize where their flood risks are by providing a quick look at demographic, infrastructure, and environmental vulnerabilities within the floodplain. Information is displayed in easy-to-understand graphical formats. Users can also download a full report that includes the graphs, a written explanation, the county floodplain map, and suggestions for next steps the community can take to become more resilient.

The Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts viewer is Web mapping tool that provides coastal managers and scientists with a preliminary look at sea level rise and coastal flooding impacts. The viewer is a screening-level tool that uses nationally consistent data sets and analyses. Data and maps provided can be used at several scales to help gauge trends and prioritize actions for different scenarios. A slider bar has been built into the tool to give the user the ability to raise the “view” of sea level rise impacts for up to six feet of inundation. To complement this feature, local landmarks embedded within the tool allow users to visualize sea level rise or coastal flooding at specific locations. The tool also features visualizations of potential sea level rise impacts on vulnerable people and businesses, marsh areas, mapping confidence, and coastal flood frequency.

Helping communities understand the need to address inundation issues is important. Inundation is not going away. It will only get worse as the climate changes and sea level rise continues. Preparing now will help build more resilient communities.

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