Tracking Sea-Level Rise & Assessing Risks

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014: 5:15 PM
Georgia Ballroom 2 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Heidi Cullen, Climate Central, Princeton, NJ; and B. Strauss

Sea level rise due to global warming has already doubled the annual risk of coastal flooding of historic proportions across widespread areas of the United States. To assist coastal areas, Climate Central released Surging Seas in 2012 to provide statistics for 3,000 coastal towns, cities, counties and states that could be impacted by sea level rise.

The interactive tool's success was covered by more than 800 local and national media outlets and was used as the basis for testimony on rising seal level before the U.S. Senate.

Climate Central is developing the next generation of the tool, Surging Seas 2.0, to provide local regions and policy makers with the tailored information they need to understand and respond to the risks of sea level rise and coastal flooding.

Surging Seas 2.0 will include Risk Finder, an interactive data toolkit that shows populations, infrastructure, and assets exposed to coastal flooding aggravated by sea level rise. Our original Surging Seas materials included land, population, and housing at risk, tabulated by city, county, or state. The Risk Finder incorporates the latest, high-resolution, high-accuracy lidar elevation data from NOAA and assesses exposure of countless infrastructure and other elements—from airports to road miles, from schools to hospitals to wastewater treatment plants—in order to allow users to tabulate and tally vulnerability by zip code, legislative districts, agency districts, planning districts, and other administrative units, from local through state through federal levels. Risk Finder further intersects this analysis of physical vulnerability with an analysis of social vulnerability produced by our research partners so that users can identify with precision the most threatened communities. And, Risk Finder presents localized projections for sea level rise and coastal flood risk in great detail, and according to a range of different models and assumptions. The navigator will include interactive maps, tables and figures of results, risk timelines, downloadable data, and accessible written analyses of social vulnerability. We will launch our tool on a state-by-state basis, with the first states coming out in the fall/winter of 2013/2014. Climate Central would like to share this new tool with attendees at the 94th Annual Meeting of AMS in February 2014.

The presentation will be led by Dr. Benjamin Strauss, vice president for climate impacts and director of the program on sea level rise at Climate Central. Strauss has published multiple scientific papers on sea level rise, testified before the U.S. Senate, authored the original Surging Seas report, and led development of theSurgingSeas.org coastal flood risk tool, leading to front-page coverage in the New York Times and Washington Post, appearances on NBC, CBS, PBS and NPR national programming, and extensive coverage nationwide, from AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, USA Today and the LA Times, to many hundreds of local news outlets, to numerous editorials and op eds.