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Evaluating Sea-level Rise Impacts in the Northeastern U.S.

A Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Sea-level Rise Impacts in the Northeastern U.S.


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In 2010, 39 percent of the U.S.population lived near the coast. This population is expected to increase by 8 percent from 2010 to 2020. Coastal regions are also home to species and habitats that provide critical services to humans, such as wetlands that buffer coasts from storms. Therefore, sea-level rise and the associated changes in coastlines challenge both human communities and ecosystems. Understanding which coastal lands will be vulnerable to sea-level rise is critical for policy makers, land-use planners, and coastal residents. Focusing on the coastal region from Virginia to Maine, researchers examined a range of different possible sea-level rise scenarios, combined with information on features of the coastal landscape (such [...]

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We developed a reconnaissance method to distinguish those coastal areas in the northeastern U.S. (from Virginia to Maine) that will likely experience a predominantly inundation response (e.g., flooding) to sea-level rise from those that will likely respond dynamically by moving or changing (e.g., landforms such as barrier islands and marshes). Areas that are likely to inundate include urban regions of intense development and/or coastal engineering, as well as bedrock coasts. Areas that are likely to respond dynamically include beaches, unconsolidated cliffs, barrier islands, and wetlands. By distinguishing the response to a variety of sea level projections in these areas, future work can inform appropriate scientific research and decision support efforts.

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