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NCCOS Research Project

Modeling, Visualizing and Communicating Nor'easter and Hurricane Threats Under Sea-Level Rise to Support Coastal Management within New England

Primary Contact(s): trevor.meckley@noaa.gov
This project began September 2021 and is projected to be completed in August 2025

This project informs and improves resource management and resilience to extreme events (e.g., Nor’easters and hurricanes) in coastal areas, and the magnification of impacts under sea level rise. The project covers five National Parks and two National Wildlife Refuges in three New England states. It uses a suite of existing numerical models to quantify impacts of future storm and sea level rise scenarios on ecosystem and infrastructure vulnerability. An online portal will share model outputs.

Why We Care
Coastal communities and critical habitats are at increased risk due to sea-level rise (SLR). Adapting to SLR and extreme weather conditions in our changing climate is a growing concern. In New England, extratropical storm events with strong winds and heavy precipitation (commonly called nor’easters) are the most common coast-shaping storms, followed by hurricanes. There is limited information on how the impact of both types of storms may be amplified under a changing climate and SLR. This information gap inhibits our ability to properly plan for the future and is likely to lead to under-informed and ineffective adaptation measures.

What We Are Doing

(Upper 1/2) The Eastham, MA area (partial) and surrounding Cape Cod National Seashore (eastern side) project site with historical shorelines and coastal changes indicated; right-side inset shows location of project study sites. (Lower-left) example of ADCIRC model grid. (Lower right) Inlet movement and marsh changes are highlighted. Note, repeat shoreline mapping does not currently extend into embayments, a focus of this study. Credit. I. Ginis, URI.

This project has identified several study sites at five National Parks (Acadia, Boston Harbor Islands, Cape Cod, New Bedford Whaling, Roger Williams Memorial) and two National Wildlife Refuges (Ninigret, Trustom Pond) in three New England states (ME, MA, RI). While all these sites have critical risk today and increasing concern for the future, each location has different management needs, data availability, and existing planning efforts. The project is tailored to meet the specific needs of each site, as determined through interactions with key stakeholders. This project uses a suite of existing physics-based numerical models (Adcirc+Swan, Funwave, Xbeach, SLAMM) to quantify the impacts of future storm and sea level rise scenarios on ecosystem and infrastructure vulnerability. Two sites include without and with site-specific Natural and Nature Based Feature (NNBF) mitigation strategies. The project uses a three-tiered stakeholder-driven process to facilitate and enhance the collaborations. An online portal will be developed to share model output with geospatial and other visualization tools and users.

Benefits of Our Work
The project engages managers and staff at parks, refuges, local and state governments, and nonprofits in a collaborative and iterative process to ensure models, results, vulnerability assessments, and accompanying 3D visualizations support specific stakeholder management concerns and inform management decisions. The place-based information and critical insights from this project promote wiser expenditure of resources to improve coastal resilience and protect communities (people/infrastructure) and their ecosystems (habitats, resources, services).

The project is led by Dr. Isaac Ginis of the University of Rhode Island (URI) with URI co-partners John Patrick Walsh, Stephan Grilli, Pamela Rubinoff, Annette Grilli, and Peter Stempel of Penn State University. Collaborating participants include the Schoodic Institute and the U.S. National Park Service. This project is part of the NCCOS Effects of Sea Level Rise Program (ESLR) Program.

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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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