Predicting Impacts of Sea Level Rise in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
Project Status: This project began in January 2010 and was completed in December 2015
We are assessing the impacts of sea level rise and coastal storms on marshes and oyster habitats in the northern Gulf of Mexico through the development of predictive models that coastal zone managers may use for long-term planning. This large-scale research study includes the panhandle of Florida, coastal Alabama, and coastal Mississippi, and the tools developed will provide enhanced certainty in scale and local detail.
Why We Care
The northern Gulf of Mexico coast benefits economically from a wealth of natural resources that depend on healthy coastal ecosystems. However, these ecosystems face a number of threats, including sea level rise and hurricanes. The impacts of sea level rise could be dramatic. Low-lying coastal areas are expected to experience:
increased levels of flooding,
loss of wetlands and low-lying terrestrial ecosystems, and
seawater intrusion into freshwater sources.
Rising sea level and erosion will also imperil critical habitats for many commercially important fisheries that depend on inshore waters for either permanent residence or nursery area.
Coastal management agencies struggle to balance the pressures of coastal development with the conservation and protection of the coastal environment. Increased hurricane activity and rising sea levels already threaten shoreline habitats, as well as productive wetlands that are prevalent in the Gulf of Mexico. Tools that provide predictive capabilities will enable smart management of coastal systems, improve targeting of restoration efforts, and facilitate planning.
What We Are Doing
This project will provide predictive tools to determine the impact of sea level rise on coasts and coastal habitats and will transition the resulting information to management applications. The study area includes three National Estuarine Environmental Research Reserves: Apalachicola, FL, Weeks Bay, AL, and Grand Bay, MS. Field and laboratory experiments as well as resulting ecological models will focus on these reserves, but will also apply to coastal habitats throughout the region.
The five-year project is improving and applying existing models of circulation, sediment transport, and biogeochemistry from the watershed to the sea, including waves and erosion. The ultimate prediction will be sediment loadings to the estuary as a result of overland flow, shoreline and barrier island erosion, and salinity transport in numerous bay systems, all of which will be used to model the evolution of intertidal marshes and oyster habitats. These models will make use of existing bathymetric and topographic data and related data sets. Field and laboratory experiments will provide the information needed to determine parameters for the marsh and oyster habitat models. The project is also assessing impacts in the presence of simulated and retrospective tropical storms.
To facilitate applications to the coastal management community, the project also funds a diverse management committee. This committee, consisting of federal, state, and local managers as well as conservation organizations, provides guidance to the science team on required information needs and project tool development. Prior to funding, this project was planned and approved both within NOAA and across the Gulf of Mexico (including the Gulf of Mexico Alliance) to ensure relevant science needs would be addressed.
The project team included partners from NOAA/NCCOS, Louisiana State University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of South Carolina, Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Dewberry, Inc. Collaboration and significant assistance has also been provided by NOAA's National Geodetic Survey and NOAA's Coastal Services Center.
Benefits of Our Work
Improving the predictive understanding of ecosystem responses to sea level rise and increasing storm surge allows coastal zone managers to more effectively assess alternative management strategies for mitigating future ecological and socioeconomic impacts of climate change. The management community will be able to:
prioritize risk management strategies,
identify restoration locations that can be sustained over the long term,
reformulate set-back requirements,
improve guidelines for construction of breakwaters and other coastal infrastructure, and
assess water resource impacts and protection needs.
This project will yield several useful products, including: maps that delineate new tidal boundaries as a result of sea level rise; estimates of sediment loadings from overland runoff to estuarine systems, and erosion rates; projections of changes in critical habitats (e.g., salinity distributions, marsh, beach, shellfish, submerged aquatic vegetation, land cover), and water resource impacts. These products will facilitate a comprehensive, forward-looking assessment of coastal ecosystem change in response to sea level rise that is not possible with current tools. This project is also serving as the foundation for the Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/sentinelsites/gomex.html).
Regions of Study: Gulf of Mexico, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi
Primary Contact: David Kidwell
Climate Impacts (Impacts of Sea Level Rise)
Related NCCOS Center: CSCOR
Data Collections and Related Websites
- Hagen, S.C., J.T., Morris, P. Bacopoulos, and J.F. Weishampel. 2013. Sea-level rise impact on a salt marsh system of the lower St. Johns River. Journal of Waterway, Port, Coastal, and Ocean Engineering. 139:118–125.
- Wang, D., S.C. Hagen, and K. Alizad. 2013. Climate change impact and uncertainty analysis of extreme rainfall events in the Apalachicola Rover basin, Florida. Journal of Hydrology. 480:125–135.
- Hagen, S.C. and P. Bacopoulos. 2012. Coastal flooding in Florida’s Big Bend region with application to sea level rise based on synthetic storm analysis. Terrestrial Atmospheric and Oceans Science. 23(5):481–500.
- Bilskie, M.V., Hagen, S.C., Medeiros, S.C., Passeri, D.L. 2014. Dynamics of sea level rise and coastal flooding on a changing landscape. Geophysical Research Letters, Online, doi: 10.1002/2013GL058759.
- Reece, J.S., Passeri, D., Ehrhart, L., Hagen, S.C., Hays, A., Long, C., Noss, R.F., Bilskie, M.V., Sanchez, C., Schwoerer, M.V., Von Holle, B., Weishampel, J., Wolf, S. 2013. Sea level rise, land use, and climate change influence the distribution of loggerhead turtle nests at the largest USA rookery (Melbourne Beach, Florida). Marine Ecology Progress Series, 493, 259–274.
- Tamura, H., Bacopoulos, P., Wang, D., Hagen, S.C., and Kubatko, E.J. 2013. State estimation of tidal hydrodynamics using ensemble Kalman filter. Advances in Water Resources, Online November 12, 2013.
- Huang, W., Hagen, S.C., and Bacopoulos, P. 2013. Hydrodynamic Modeling of Hurricane Dennis Impact on Estuarine Salinity Mixing and Transport in Apalachicola Bay. Journal of Coastal Research, Online October 1, 2013.
- Medeiros, S.C., Hagen, S.C., Chaouch, N., Feyen, J.C., Temimi, M., Weishampel, J.F., Funakoshi, Y., and Khanbilvardi, R. 2013. Assessing the Performance of a Northern Gulf of Mexico Tidal Model Using Satellite Imagery. Remote Sensing, 5, 5662-5679.
- Voss, C.M., R.R. Christian, and J.T. Morris. 2012. Marsh macrophyte responses to inundation anticipate impacts of sea-level rise and indicate ongoing drowning of North Carolina marshes. Mar. Biol. DOI 10.1007/s00227-012-2076-5
- Xu, Sudong and Wenrui Huang. 2013. Effects of sea level rise on frequency analysis of 1% annual maximum water levels in the coast of Florida. Ocean Engineering 71:96-102.
- Wang, D. and L. Wu. 2013. Similarity of climate control on base flow and perennial stream density in the Budyko framework. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 17:315-324.
- Stephens, Sonia H., Denise E. DeLorme, and Scott C. Hagen. 2014. An analysis of narrative-building features of interactive sea level rise viewers. Science Communication 36(6):675-705. doi: 10.1177/1075547014550371
- Passeri, Davina L., Scott C. Hagen, Matthew V. Bilskie, and Stephen C. Medeiros. 2014. On the signficance of incorporating shoreline changes for evaluating coastal hydrodynamics under sea level rise scenarios. Natural Hazards 75(2):1599-1617. doi: 10.1007/s11069-014-1386-y
- 1. Passeri, D.L., S.C. Hagen, S.C. Medeiros, M.V. Bilskie, “Impacts of historic morphology and sea level rise on tidal hydrodynamics in a microtidal estuary (Grand Bay, Mississippi).” Continental Shelf Science, In revision, 2015.
- Passeri, D.L., S.C. Hagen, M.V. Bilskie, S.C. Medeiros, “On the significance of incorporating shoreline changes for evaluating coastal hydrodynamics under sea level rise scenarios.” Natural Hazards, Vol. 75 (2), 2015, pp. 1599-1617.
- Passeri, D.L., S.C. Hagen, S.C. Medeiros, M.V. Bilskie, K. Alizad, D. Wang, “The dynamic effects of sea level rise on coastal landscapes: a review.” Earth’s Future, Online, April, 2015.
- Passeri, D.L., S.C. Hagen, J.L. Irish, “Comparison of shoreline change rates along the South Atlantic Bight and Northern Gulf of Mexico coasts for better evaluation of future shoreline positions under sea level rise.” In: Huang, W. and Hagen S.C. (eds.), Climate Change Impacts on Surface Water Systems. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, No. 68, pp. 20-26. 2014.
- Taylor, N.R., J.L. Irish, I.E. Udoh, M.V. Bilskie, S.C. Hagen, “Development and Uncertainty Quantification of Hurricane Surge Response Functions for Hazard Assessment in Coastal Bays.” Natural Hazards, No. 77:2, 2015, pp. 1103-1123.
- Huang, W., S.C. Hagen, P. Bacopoulos,, F. Teng, “Sea-Level Rise Impacts on Hurricane-Induced Salinity Transport in Apalachicola Bay.” Journal of Coastal Research special issue: Climate impacts on surface water systems, No. 68, pp. 49-56. 2014.
- Bilskie, M.V., S.C. Hagen, S.C. Medeiros, D.L. Passeri, “Dynamics of sea level rise and coastal flooding on a changing landscape.” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 41, No. 3, February 5, 2014, pp. 927-934.
- Huang, W., S.C. Hagen, P. Bacopoulos, “Hydrodynamic modeling of Hurricane Dennis Impact on Estuarine Salinity Mixing and Transport in Apalachicola Bay.” Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 30, No. 2, March 2014, pp. 389-398.
- Bacopoulos, P., S.C. Hagen, “Dynamic considerations of sea-level rise with respect to water levels and flooding in Apalachicola Bay.” In: Huang, W. and Hagen S.C. (eds.), Climate Change Impacts on Surface Water Systems. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, No. 68, pp. 43-48. 2014.
- Xu, S., W. Huang, “Effects of sea-level-rise on frequency analysis of 1% annual maximum water levels in the coast of Florida.” Ocean Engineering, Vol. 71, pp. 96-102. 2013.
- Hagen, S.C., P. Bacopoulos, “Synthetic Storms Contributing to Coastal Flooding in Florida’s Big Bend Region with Application to Sea Level Rise Impact.” Terrestrial, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Vol. 23, No. 5, October 2012, pp. 481-500.
- Medeiros, S.C., S.C. Hagen, J.F. Weishampel, “A Random Forest Model Based on Lidar and Field Measurements for Parameterizing Surface Roughness in Coastal Modeling,” IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, No. 8(4), pp. 1582-1590. 2015.
- Medeiros, S., S.C. Hagen, J.F. Weishampel, J. Angelo “Adjusting lidar-derived digital terrain models in coastal marshes based on estimated above ground biomass density.” Remote Sensing, Vol. 7, 2015, pp. 3507-3525.
- Medeiros, S.C., S.C. Hagen, N. Chaouch, J.C. Feyen, M. Temimi, J.F. Weishampel, Y. Funakoshi, and R. Khanbilvardi, “Assessing the performance of a northern Gulf of Mexico tidal model using satellite imagery.” Remote Sensing, Vol. 5, No. 11, pp. 5662-5679. 2013.
- Long, T.M., J. Angelo, and J.F. Weishampel, “LiDAR-derived measures of hurricane- and restoration-generated beach morphodynamics in relation to sea turtle nesting behavior.” International Journal of Remote Sensing, Vol. 32, February 2011, pp. 231-241.
- Alizad, K., S.C. Hagen, J.T. Morris, P. Bacopoulos, M.V. Bilskie, & J.F. Weishampel, “A coupled, two-dimensional hydrodynamic-marsh model with biological feedback.” Limnology & Oceanography, In revision, April 2015.
- Hagen, S.C., J.T. Morris, P. Bacopoulos, J. Weishampel, “Sea-Level Rise Impact on a Salt Marsh System of the Lower St. Johns River.” ASCE Journal of Waterway, Port, Coastal, and Ocean Engineering, Vol. 139, No. 2, March 2013, pp. 118-125.
- Huang, W., S. C. Hagen, P. Bacopoulos, D. Wang, “Hydrodynamic modeling and analysis of sea-level rise impacts on salinity for oyster growth in Apalachicola Bay, Florida.” Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 30 (2), 2015, pp. 389-398.
- Solomon, J., M. Donnelly, L. Walters, “Effects of Sea level Rise on the Intertidal Oyster Crassostrea virginica.” Journal of Coastal Research special issue: Climate impacts on surface water systems, Journal of Coastal Research, No. 68, pp 57-64. 2014.
- Huang, W., S.C. Hagen, P. Bacopoulos, “Modeling and analysis of sea-level-rise impacts on Apalachicola Bay.” Estuarine, Coastal, and Shelf Science, Vol. 156, pp. 7-18. 2014.
- Reece, J.S., D. Passeri, L. Ehrhart, S.C. Hagen, A. Hays, C. Long., R.F. Noss,, M. Bilskie, C. Sanchez, M.V. Schwoerer, B. Von Holle, J. Weishampel, S. Wolf, “Sea level rise, land use, and climate change influence the distribution of loggerhead turtle nests at the largest USA rookery (Melbourne Beach, Florida).” Marine Ecology Progress Series, Vol. 493, November 20, 2013, pp. 259-274.
- Chen, X., K. Alizad, D. Wang, S.C. Hagen, “Climate Change Impact on Runoff and Sediment Loads to the Apalachicola River at Seasonal and Event Scales.” In: Huang, W. and Hagen S.C. (eds.), Climate Change Impacts on Surface Water Systems. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, No. 68, pp. 35-42. 2014.
- Wang, D., Y. Tang, “A one-parameter Budyko model for water balance captures emergent behavior in Darwinian hydrologic models.” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 41 No. 13, January 2014, pp. 4569-4577.
- Wang, D., S.C. Hagen, K. Alizad, “Climate Change Impact and Uncertainty Analysis of Extreme Rainfall Events in the Apalachicola River Basin, Florida.” Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 480, February 14, 2013, pp. 125-135.
- Chen, X., D. Wang, “Evaluating the effect of partial contributing storage on storage–discharge function from recession analysis.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Vol. 17, pp. 4283-4296. 2013.
- Chen, X., N. Alimohammadi, and D. Wang, “Modeling interannual variability of seasonal evaporation and storage change based on the extended Budyko framework.” Water Resources Research, Vol. 49, No. 9, pp.6067-6078. 2013.
- Wang, D., L. Wu, “Similarity of climate control on base flow and perennial stream density in the Budyko framework.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Vol. 17, No. 1, January 25, 2013, pp. 315-324. 2013.
- Stephens, S.H., D.E. DeLorme, S.C. Hagen. 2015. “Communicating Coastal Risk with Interactive Digital Sea Level Rise Viewers: A Comparative Analysis.” Environmental Communication, Revised & resubmitted, 2015.
- Stephens, S., D.E. DeLorme, S.C. Hagen, “Evaluating the Utility and Communicative Effectiveness of an Interactive Sea-Level Rise Viewer through Stakeholder Engagement.” Journal of Business & Technical Communication, No. 29(3), pp. 314-343. 2015.
- Stephens, S., D.E. DeLorme, S.C. Hagen, “An Analysis of the Narrative Elements of Interactive Sea Level Rise Viewers.” Science Communication, Vol. 36, December, 2014, pp. 675-705.
- Hooshyar, M., S.C. Medeiros, D. Wang, S.C. Hagen, Bottom roughness and bathymetry estimation of 1-D hydrodynamic model using dual EnKF, Water Resources Research, In review, 2015.
- Bilskie, M.V., D. Coggin, S.C. Hagen, S.C. Medeiros, "Enhancement and application of overland unstructured finite element meshes for shallow water flow models." Advances in Water Resources, Revised & resubmitted, 2015.
- Tamura, H., P. Bacopoulos,, D. Wang, S.C. Hagen, E.J. Kubatko, “State Estimation of Tidal Hydrodynamics Using Ensemble Kalman Filter.” Advances in Water Resources, Vol. 63, January 2014, pp. 45-56.
Presentations and/or Posters
News and Feature Stories
- U.S. Department of Transportation Updates Coastal Infrastructure Risk Assessment Using NCCOS Research (December 18, 2014)
- Sea Level Rise Visualization Tool “Tells Story” of Climate Change (November 24, 2014)
- Marsh Hydrology Model Supports Hurricane Sandy Restoration (November 20, 2014)
- Sea Level Rise Scenario Project Wins Advanced Computing Award (October 8, 2014)
- Incorporating Shoreline Fluctuations into Tidal Models Improves Sea Level Predictions (September 22, 2014)
- Could Future Land Use Changes Increase Storm Surge Flooding? (February 3, 2014)
- Sea Level Rise Research Supports Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative (January 6, 2014)
- NCCOS-supported Student Wins Award 2013 Research Forum Award (April 22, 2013)
- Identifying Impacts of Rising Sea Levels and Erosion to Coastal Habitats and Communities in the Northern Gulf of Mexico (August 24, 2010)
- Federal Agencies, Local Coastal Managers and Researchers Work Together to Identify Ways to Mitigate the Impact of Sea Level Rise in Coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle (February 6, 2008)
- One-NOAA Event Discusses Pressing Issue of Sea Level Rise in Coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle (January 18, 2008)