Coastal change occurs in response to a variety of processes and drivers over a range of timescales. Over the longer term, the impacts of sea-level rise (SLR) will vary across the coastal landscape. Inundation is a relatively straightforward impact to understand and model, and dominates many of the online tools and resources to provide SLR decision support; however this approach does not adequately account for the resilience of some areas. A more comprehensive assessment of SLR impacts requires accounting for dynamic change; many areas have the potential to adapt to either preserve their current morphologic or ecologic state or transition to a new one (e.g. a forest becomes a marsh) under various SLR scenarios instead of simply inundating. Recent work has resulted in a high resolution (30 x 30 m) coastal response model using a probabilistic (Bayesian network) approach that produces the likelihood of observing inundation or dynamic response for the Northeastern U.S. from Maine to Virginia. Outcomes can be translated using standardized uncertainty terminology to demonstrate decision-making applications as well as highlight research gaps. Applying these results over a broad scale provides comparison with inundation-model guidance, and allows decision makers to identify and prioritize areas that may provide near- and longer-term tradeoffs in a regional context. The USGS and collaborators are also exploring the application of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) as a coastal mapping tool that can be rapidly deployed to capture site-specific seasonal and storm-driven changes to morphology and habitat to better inform our understanding of coastal evolution and resilience in the near-term.
A report documenting the SLR methodology and approach, along with datasets of predicted outcomes can be found here:
Erika Lentz is a Research Geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey stationed at the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center. She received her PhD in Geology from the University of Rhode Island in 2010, and from 2012 to 2014 was a USGS Mendenhall Research Fellow. Her research focuses coastal change and the processes that drive it over a range of spatial (barrier island to regional) and temporal (storms to sea level rise) scales in both natural and built environments.