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To: GCRC listserv subscribers
Subject line: Request for input

We're forwarding a message from Bill O'Beirne (NOAA) regarding a request for comments on a prospectus for a sea-level rise assessment that was sent to the GCRC via Brad Gane (DNR, Coastal Resources Division). Please respond, if appropriate.

Greetings CZM Managers,
As you might be aware, a multi-agency assessment of sea-level rise vulnerability for the U.S. is underway, as part of the broader U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) (see http://www.climatescience.gov). As part of the CCSP, NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) s taking the lead for part of that study related to coastal elevation and sensitivity to sea level rise (Task 4.1, see background below). CO-OPS has recently completed the Task 4.1 prospectus and is soliciting public comment and review from the coastal science /management community.

We would greatly appreciate it if you could have relevant staff review and provide comments on the prospectus to the CCSP *_by 30 January 2006_*. A copy of the prospectus is available online:


Comments can be submitted to the CCSP on line at:

While the study that the prospectus sets out will be focused on the Mid-Atlantic area (North Carolina to New York) we encourage other CZM Managers to review and provide their comments on a methodology and work that will likely become national in scope at a later date.In addition, you are able and encouraged to nominate authors and experts to participate in the peer review of the draft products. Nominations should be sent to:
        4.1-Sea_Level@climatescience.gov   by January 28, 2006.

We encourage having Coastal Zone managers or their staff as part of the broader peer review team.

Studies over the last two decades have identified numerous decisions that may be sensitive to sea level rise (e.g. NRC 1987; Williams et al. 1995; Section 3.1 of Titus and Narayanan 1996.) To inform those decisions, better information about the implications of sea level rise is needed at various scales. For analyzing national decisions (e.g., incorporating shoreline retreat into flood insurance or wetland protection programs), nationwide estimates are important, perhaps with a state-by-state breakdown. Shore-protection and land-use decisions, by contrast, are mostly made at the local level or on a parcel- specific basis; those decisions require maps that show site- specific implications. Researchers may require fine-scale maps for process-specific analysis and coarse-scale data for analyzing broader implications.

During the 1980s and 1990s, quantitative assessments of the implications of sea level rise generally proceeded on two independent tracks to meet the very different needs of national (Park et al. 1989; Leatherman 1989; Weggel et al. 1989; FEMA 1991; Titus et al. 1991; Gornitz and White, 1992; Yohe et al. 1996) and state or local (Kana et al. 1984; Leatherman 1985; State of Maine 1995, Kearney and SteveJanuary 13, 2008ic information systems (GIS), however, now makes it more feasible to use the same information for a variety of purposes. GIS systems also make it easier to develop information that can be useful for a variety of scales (Kemelis et al. 2003).

The recent advances do not, however, imply that all of the implications of a rising sea are well understood. The effects of sea level rise include tidal inundation of low lying areas; coastal erosion of wetlands, beaches, and other types of shores; vertical accretion of wetlands; increased coastal flooding during storm surges and periods of extreme rainfall; and increased salinity of aquifers and estuaries, especially during droughts. Providing maps that predict effects other than tidal inundation is scientifically challenging at best, and in many cases, impossible. The literature may provide the basis for a qualitative prediction, but not always with the precision-- or in the form--that decision makers require.

Many agencies and individuals are developing data that can provide insights regarding the implications of sea level rise. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Army Corps of Engineers, and several states are developing elevation data for floodplain management. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and USGS are developing Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) that use a common vertical reference frame for both topographic and bathymetric maps (NOAA , 2004). Local governments and major coastal conservancies are developing GIS land-use data for managing ecosystems and economic growth. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) develops wetland data. NOAA's coastal change analysis program periodically provides a comprehensive assessment of vegetation changes in the coastal zone of the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collects high resolution LIDAR elevation data for coastal areas for use in producing assessments of shoreline erosion and other coastal processes through the National Assessment of Shoreline Change Project of the Coastal and Marine Geology Program (e.g. Morton et al. 2004 ; Thieler and Hammar-Klose 1999, 2000a, and 2000b); and FEMA has done so in the past. USGS also evaluates the ability of wetlands to keep pace with rising relative sea level (Rybczyk and Cahoon 2002).

Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.1 will synthesize information from the ongoing mapping efforts by federal and non-federal researchers related to the implications of rising sea level. It will overlay the arious data layers to develop new results made possible by bringing together researchers that are otherwise working independently. Because of time, data, and resource limitations, the synthesis will focus on a contiguous portion of the U.S. coastal zone (New York to North Carolina). The report will also develop a plan for a sea level rise research program to answer the questions that are most urgent for near-term decisionmaking. This report will provide information that supports the specific goal in Chapter 9 of the Strategic Plan for the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP, 2003) to analyze how coastal environmental programs can be improved to adapt to sea level rise while enhancing economic growth.

Bill O'Beirne
State Liaison Team Leader
Coastal Programs Division
1305 East West Hwy
SSMC4 Rm 11110
Silver Spring MD 20910
ph# 301.713.3155 x160
fax 301.713.4367
email: bill.o'beirne@noaa.gov


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