Sea Grant programs are helping coastal and Great Lakes communities increase their resilience to impacts of changing conditions at every step of the way.
For Sea Grant, resilience is more than a buzzword. As a network of 34 university-based programs, Sea Grant brings together experts in coastal processes, hazards, climate change, and urban planning to support cutting-edge research and outreach. Sea Grant is involved in every aspect of climate resilience planning and implementation, from start to finish. Tour some of Sea Grant’s latest projects and on-going efforts to sustain diverse and vibrant coastal economies.
From data collection to adaptation implementation, Sea Grant’s ongoing work in resilience is made possible through partnerships. Sea Grant collaborates with partners across NOAA and beyond (over 2,700) to support coastal and Great Lakes communities through research, extension and education.
Continue reading in this interactive story map. (Below is an accessible version of the story from the story map)
Where we are now
To help coastal communities respond to climate and extreme weather-related challenges, we must first understand the changes that are occurring. Sea Grant leads a variety of localized data collection and monitoring efforts that capture the scale of current flood events, erosion, storm damage and more. These efforts incorporate local perspectives by encouraging members of the communities surveyed to get involved. Here are two examples:
- Community monitoring effort helps develop coastal change model in Alaska
Utqiaġvik, Alaska, the northernmost city in the United States, is vulnerable to flooding and erosion caused by warming in the Arctic. After Utqiaġvik experienced widespread and costly damage from a fall storm in 2017, Alaska Sea Grant researchers facilitated a shoreline community monitoring effort.
Community monitors, who use survey instruments to measure waves, wind and water levels, helped increase resident involvement in and awareness of the monitoring.
Data collected were used to develop a coastal geomorphic change model for Utqiaġvik to predict nearshore water level, wave height, and shoreline erosion for four miles of coastline, informing the community on risk of erosion and flooding and allowing them to better prepare for storm events.
- Student-built sensors help New Hampshire community understand flooding
Hampton, New Hampshire is surrounded by salt marsh, and residents regularly experience sunny-day flooding. To help residents understand and track the flooding, New Hampshire Sea Grant Extension staff worked with the University of New Hampshire’s Innovation Scholars to create a residential lending library of data sensors.
The sensors, such as ones for pH, conductivity, and soil moisture, provide access to data that will offer residents, community managers and planners insight into the threat of chronic flooding from both extreme tides and sea level rise.
“In order to combat this problem, we need to give people the power of information.” – Jane Schwadron, UNH Innovation Scholar
Data is key to informing predictions for future impacts. Sea Grant uses information collected to model sea level rise, future flooding, and potential hazards exposure in communities. Mapping tools like these also help Sea Grant and its partners provide risk assessments to local businesses and landowners. Learn how:
- Viewing sea level rise impacts in Hawaiʻi
Hawaiʻi Sea Grant led a partnership effort to create a sea level rise viewer for the state of Hawaiʻi. The interactive mapping tool visualizes projections for future hazard exposure, including passive flooding and coastal erosion, along with potential economic loss and flooded highways.
- Predicting changes over time in Washington state
Washington Sea Grant partnered on the Washington Coastal Resilience Project to create a state sea level rise visualization tool. The tool allows users to explore how projections change over time (2020-2150) for over 171 distinct locations along the Washington coast.
- Developing flood mapping tools in New York
New York Sea Grant’s online, interactive maps overlay different water levels to bring awareness to Lake Ontario community leaders, waterfront residents and business owners about infrastructure and services that may be at risk. Users can see potential flood risk predictions at the parcel-level for Lake Ontario and its embayments, enhancing local flood preparedness planning and response.
Planning for the future
Together, the data and the predictions allow communities to plan and begin adapting for environmental changes. Sea Grant brings together experts and leaders to strategize adaptation planning, execute green infrastructure projects, conduct research on topics of emerging interest and engage in thoughtful education and outreach to share results with the communities affected.
Selection of Sea Grant’s work in planning for the future:
- Hampton Roads Adaptation Forum
The Hampton Roads Adaptation Forum brings together a variety of professionals to share knowledge about best practices in adaptation and facilitate regional coordination for sea level rise planning. The Forum is a collaboration between Old Dominion University, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and Virginia Sea Grant.
- Lake Levels Workshop
In light of 2020’s high water levels in Lake Michigan and other Great Lakes, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant brought together resource managers, experts, scientists and community leaders to improve understanding of changing lake level impacts and management implications.
- Regional AdaptLA
University of Southern California Sea Grant leads Regional AdaptLA, a partnership program that advances planning and adaptation processes for regional coastal impacts and shares critical scientific information to inform planning efforts. Stakeholders are reached through in-person training workshops, community engagement events, presentation opportunities and direct technical assistance to local communities.
- Living Shorelines Program
Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium’s Living Shorelines Program seeks out and evaluates alternatives to hardened shorelines, such as living shorelines, for environmental and economic benefits. The program team works with stakeholders to develop materials about the pros and cons of different methodologies. In 2019, these efforts led to the protection of 1,250 acres of marine habitat with an annual ecosystem service value approaching $48 million.
- Shoreline Adaptation Inventory Database
Rhode Island Sea Grant partners on the Shoreline Adaptation, Inventory and Design project to catalogue sites along Rhode Island’s coast where efforts such as pavement removal, vegetation restoration or bank stabilization can improve habitat and coastal resilience. The inventory will aid preparations for possible funding opportunities.
- Living Shoreline Planning Tool
Florida Sea Grant collaboratively produced an online geospatial planning tool that suggests shoreline stabilization options, such as living shorelines, and describes associated regulations. The online tool has become a cornerstone of the Shoreline Management Master Plan for the island of Cedar Key.
- Research: Neighbors Influence Armoring Shorelines in Oregon
In a recent study supported by Oregon Sea Grant, simulations showed that private oceanfront landowners’ decisions to armor their shorelines from erosion and rising sea levels increases the likelihood that neighbors will take similar actions. The findings highlight the important role policy is likely to play in future armoring decisions.
- Research: Targeted Route Improvements are Key in Eastern North Carolina
Researchers with North Carolina Sea Grant examined transportation and flood-related challenges for municipalities in the Neuse River basin, through studies of land use and land cover, stakeholder meetings, modeling, and more. Ultimately, the collaborative project team determined that the most effective investments for improving transportation resilience are in upgrades for critical routes that experience minimal flooding and early warning systems that indicate when important routes will flood.
- Research: Assessing Public Health Impacts in South Carolina
South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, with funding from NOAA’s Climate Program Office, led the development of a method for assessing the resilience of public water and wastewater systems to flooding as well as access to health care facilities. Charleston, South Carolina served as one pilot city for improving the health outcomes of communities when faced with tropical storms, increased tidal flooding and extreme rain events. The result is a guidebook, spreadsheet tools and an instructional video that will assist coastal communities in conducting their own assessments.
- Research: Studying Climate-Induced Population Shifts
Georgia Sea Grant, in partnership with 12 other Sea Grant programs, are studying human displacement and relocation caused by climate change, and the societal and economic implications of such population shifts, with support from the National Science Foundation. One of the major goals of the project is to increase community participation in climate research and adaptation studies conducted in regions that have been identified as vulnerable.
- Engaging with Rural Church Communities to Improve Resilience
Maryland Sea Grant partnered with a team of anthropologists as well as climate scientists and government officials to work with church leaders on the Eastern Shore and help their communities build resilience to coming changes in climate and related challenges. The team produced a collaborative learning film that showcased the project’s outcomes and documented how discussions among scientists, government officials, church leaders and community residents can increase stakeholder knowledge while advancing local and regional goals for resilience.
- Climate Change Curricular Tool
Puerto Rico Sea Grant produced a climate change teaching guide that includes daily lesson plans, field activities, laboratory assignments and assessment tools, along with a student manual, a children’s storybook, and an activity book. Intended to educate students about the impacts of climate change on humankind and the importance of marine ecosystems, the program’s climate change and marine ecosystems curriculums have increased the environmental literacy of 20,250 students and represent a savings of $2,000,000 for the Puerto Rico Department of Education.
- Green Infrastructure Code Advice Tool
Wisconsin Sea Grant created a green infrastructure municipal code audit workbook and tool for community resource managers and non-profit organizations. Using the tool, Wisconsin Sea Grant has worked closely with several Wisconsin coastal communities, including Superior, Port Washington and Green Bay, to identify code barriers and opportunities to encourage implementation of green infrastructure.
While adaptation planning takes action now to prepare for the long-term, it is also important to prepare for coastal hazards in the short-term. Sea Grant develops preparation and recovery resources for communities and individuals. Check out resident’s and homeowner’s handbooks to find localized information on hurricanes, nor’easters, tornados, earthquakes, wildfire, drought, tsunamis and more.