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Gulf of Mexico Sea Level Rise Tools Delivered to Coastal Managers

Published on: 02/15/2017
Research Area(s): Coastal Change

NCCOS staff and their partners held a workshop last month in Alabama to demonstrate and transfer sea level rise tools and data to regional coastal managers. Hosted by the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), over 40 representatives from federal, state, and local agencies and non-governmental organizations engaged in training sessions and hands-on activities focused on understanding how changes in future storm surge flooding could affect coastal wetlands. The workshop marks the culmination of a six-year Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise (EESLR) project in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The centerpiece of the workshop was a session focused on marsh changes with sea level rise. This included demonstrations of the newly released Marsh Equilibrium Model (MEM; v. 5.4) and the EESLR-marsh productivity model (Hydro-MEM). MEM allows users to manipulate biologically relevant parameters (e.g., productivity, elevation) to simulate the effects of different sea level rise scenarios and management actions (e.g., thin-layer application) on marsh health. The MEM tool delivered to participants was pre-calibrated for the Grand Bay (Mississippi) and Apalachicola (Florida) NERRs using data from field studies. Participants also received a suite of Hydro-MEM marsh predictions. Hydro-MEM is a coupled hydrodynamic/marsh model that produces marsh productivity, extent, and migration-potential projections under a variety of sea level rise scenarios at each of the three NERRs and surrounding areas.

The workshop also addressed future storm surge, with geographic data layers for coastal Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle made available to participants. These data include the maximum extent and depth of inundation for ten historic storms under varying scenarios of future coastal change and sea level rise, enabling users to envision what the consequences might be of a Hurricane Katrina striking in 2050, for example.

In addition to providing participants early access to project tools and data, the workshop collected participants' feedback on the usability and format of the tools and data for incorporation into final versions of these products. All data will be available to the public in the summer of 2017 via the NOAA data archive at the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Louisiana State University, the University of South Carolina, and the Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative collaborated with NCCOS to develop the workshop.

For more information, contact David Kidwell or Christine Buckel.

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