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NCCOS Project

Assessing Community Vulnerability to Flood Hazards in the Baltimore, Maryland, Metro Area

This project began in FY 2023 and is expected to end in FY 2025.

High tide flooding in the inner harbor area of Baltimore, Maryland, December, 12, 2023.

High tide flooding in the inner harbor area of Baltimore, Maryland, December, 12, 2023. Credit: https://mycoast.org/

Coastal communities in the United States are forced to grapple with flooding, storms, and other hazards, and these challenges are anticipated to intensify as a result of climate related impacts. The communities most profoundly affected by these events vary significantly, influenced by both natural and social systems, with some communities experiencing these impacts disproportionately. As part of our Community Vulnerability Assessment Portfolio, we are collaborating with local partners to evaluate climate vulnerability and risk in the Baltimore, Maryland, Metro Area.

Why We Care
Communities situated in coastal zones not only derive economic vitality, culture, and natural resources from their surrounding environments but also contend with heightened vulnerability to severe and persistent weather events, such as hurricanes, sea level rise, and stormwater flooding. Events can bring about storm surges, coastal flooding, and damaging winds. The aftermath of acute storm events, coupled with more frequent flooding episodes due to high tides and heavy rains, poses significant obstacles for local communities in recovering from and preparing for the impacts of climate change.

Exacerbating these vulnerabilities, coastal areas exhibit a broad spectrum of social vulnerability, coupled with a legacy of environmental justice issues. In addressing these multifaceted challenges, this work seeks to offer data that can guide climate adaptation actions and decision-making. The ultimate goal is to ensure the long-term protection of both the fragile coastal landscapes and the communities connected to them.

What We Are Doing
Through our Vulnerability Assessment Portfolio, each year we identify one community or region and work with local partners and their stakeholders to assess community climate vulnerability (e.g., social vulnerability, flood hazard). Using our site selection criteria, we selected the Baltimore Metropolitan Area of Maryland, a coastal region experiencing flooding hazards and heat risks, for the Portfolio’s second programmatic assessment. Our research approach includes the following steps:

    1. Partner engagement
    2. Indicator development
    3. Vulnerability and hazard assessment
    4. Risk assessment
    5. Product development and release

This project relies upon partnerships with the Maryland Sea Grant Program, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Johns Hopkins University, and other regional stakeholders. We are currently working with partners to develop detailed project goals and outcomes during the project planning phase, but this assessment will more generally identify climate vulnerabilities and exposures within the Baltimore metro area.

Baltimore skyline, September 6, 2023.

Baltimore skyline, September 6, 2023. Credit: Seann Regan, NCCOS.


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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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