Sea-Level Toolkit: New Guide Helps Planners Prepare

Feb 7, 2023

High-tide flooding, as seen here in Miami, is among the effects influenced by sea level rise that coastal managers must prepare for. Image credit: B137 (CC-BY)

Rising sea levels pose challenges for resource managers and planners in coastal regions around the country. These communities face threats such as the potential inundation of tidal wetlands, or damage to wastewater management systems and other infrastructure.

Planners working at the city or county level are tasked with redesigning, building, and protecting these valuable coastal assets. And they need tools and guidance to make wise choices.

Researchers, meanwhile, work to monitor and project sea level rise, flood regime shifts, and accompanying coastal changes. But their data and insights in the form of scientific presentations and technical reports might not answer basic questions for coastal planners. What’s the best way to determine local risk levels? How do we set priorities for preservation or engineering? Should coastal assets be designed to withstand the most likely scenarios for sea level rise, or those that are less likely but potentially far more damaging?

To help coastal resource managers answer these questions, scientists have been working to make their findings more useful and accessible. A new roadmap for coastal planners, written by a geographically diverse team of extension, planning, and outreach professionals, offers a practical primer for communities preparing for rising seas.

The “Application Guide for the 2022 Sea Level Rise Technical Report,” released in June 2022, is an interpretive, practical complement to an interagency Technical Report on the latest sea level science. The work includes contributions from the NASA Sea Level Change Team working alongside federal agency partners.

The guide presents plain-language summaries of national sea-level-rise scenarios, observation-based extrapolations, and extreme water-level data presented in the Technical Report. It also offers data-driven and experience-based approaches to planning.

“This is intended to help people make sense of – and apply – the newest advancements in sea-level science,” said Renee Collini, lead author of the Application Guide and now director of the Gulf Center for Equitable Climate Resilience at The Water Institute. More here.