Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center

Cape Lookout National Seashore Storm Characterization

Supporting Examination of Diverse Management Objectives and Broadening Stakeholder Engagement for Climate Adaptation Planning of Historic Structures Stewarded by the National Park Service

Cultural resources located along the coast, such as historic buildings and lightings, face threats such as erosion, storms, and sea level rise. Managers of this resources face increasingly challenging decisions on how to protect and preserve these structures, particularly in the face of climate change impacts that can exacerbate those hazards. These decision-makers, including those within the National Park Service (NPS) that manage resources within the Cape Lookout National Seashore, need tools to enable them to help them make informed adaptation decisions given these challenges.

The Challenge

North Carolina State University (NCSU) led the development of a decision-support framework, the Optimal Preservation (OptiPres) tool, to support NPS in managing the historic villages of Cape Lookout National Seashore, Portsmouth and Cape Lookout Villages. In collaboration with Arizona State University, the U.S. Geological Survey, Western Carolina University, and the Institute, NCSU is expanding this framework to extend the utility of this tool. One improvement is directly incorporating the potential impacts of individual storm events, which is an important consideration in cultural resource management given that a single hurricane can cause extensive and widespread damage to structures. Decisions must then be made on the best approach to mitigate this damage, as well as to evaluate potential adaptation approaches given the long-term thread of sea level rise

The Approach

The Institute is using predictions of the recurrence of storms and flooding, including the impacts of sea level change, to evaluate how frequently the cultural resources of Cape Lookout National Seashore will be flooding and impacted by tropical and extratropical storm events over the coming decades. This analysis utilizes existing data sources, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Database (HURDAT) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Southeast Atlantic Coastal Study (SACS). The Institute is also supporting NCSU in incorporating this information into the OptiPres tool to support NPS managers in making adaptation decisions given the likely increase in both storms and flooding in the future.