Category Archives: Tech

The State(s) of Sea Level Rise Science

Peaks Island, Maine

Peaks Island, Maine

In early April, I read an issue of a Peaks Island, Maine newspaper. On the front page, a story’s headline caught my eye:  “Sea level rise not caused by climate change, scientists confirm.” At first I assumed it was an April Fool’s joke, but the date was not April 1st. Then I got upset. I read. It seems that the journalist had (mis)interpreted a report on sea levels in Casco Bay that affirmed the sea level has risen for much longer than most people have known about global climate change. In fact, the State of Maine has over 100 years worth of sea level rise data because the City of Portland has tracked sea level in Portland harbor since 1901. That’s valuable data. The University of Southern Maine has conducted a series of studies on sea level rise, sustainability and the economics involved with planning for adaptation. According to the Environmental Finance Center at the Muskie School (USM), “at least 100 coastal New England towns will be impacted by sea level rise and increased storm surge from climate change.” Read about their COAST and Climate Ready Estuary projects here.

The State of Maine published its climate change action plan in 2004. It identified sea level rise adaptation planning as a necessity. In particular, the Maine Geological Survey conducted several pilot projects that assessed coastal wetland migration. The state’s coastal zoning laws and management practices changed several years ago to reflect sea level rise. Read the 2010 report, “People and Nature: Adapting to a Changing Climate, Charting Maine’s Course.” A great list of collaborators contributed to the development of “People and Nature,” including Natural Resources Council of Maine, several state agencies, several cities and Maine Coast Heritage Trust. It’s hard to find on the state’s website because the State Planning Office’s website was moved and merged with those of other departments.

Meanwhile, adaptation planning has moved to the forefront of climate change science in recent years. Sea level rise scientists at NASA, USGS and other agencies engaged in an online chat session about the state of the science for sea level rise and adaptation planning in early April 2013. (You can listen to the discussion after-the-fact.) What I found interesting is that salt marsh ecology and wetlands play such a vital role in our understanding of sea level rise and its implications for coastal systems. Over the past 6 years, I’ve done some research on sea level rise and learned of sea level rise tools and adaptation planning efforts underway all over the country. A hotspot for sea level rise research is the East coast of the United States, where sea level rise is occurring at a faster rate between Cape Cod and the coast of North Carolina—faster than anywhere else in the world.

Leah Stetson photo

Leah Stetson photo

Several other states have begun to plan for sea level rise. Click on the links below to learn more about what states are doing about sea level rise and adapting natural resource management strategies for climate change. In most cases, it’s a collaborative effort.

MA: Mass Fish & Game Adaptation Planning       MA sea level rise planning maps
MA: Climate Change Adaptation Advisory Committee
NY: New York Sea Level Rise Planning        NY Sea Level Rise Task Force Report 2010
CT: Connecticut Climate Change Adaptation Reports
RI: Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council Sea Level Rise Planning
NJ: New Jersey Coastal Management Program Sea Level Rise Planning
NJ: Sea Level Rise in New Jersey, New Jersey Geological Survey Report, 1998
NJ, DE, PA, NY: Delaware River Basin Commission Climate Change Hydrology Report, 2013
DE: Delaware Sea Level Rise Planning & Adaptation
MD: Living Shorelines Program (Chesapeake Bay Trust)
MD: A Sea Level Response Strategy for Maryland (2000)
VA: Planning for Sea Level Rise, Virginia Institute for Marine Science
VA Sea Level Rise Maps
VA: Sea Level Rise Planning at Local Government Level in Virginia
VA: Government Plan for Development of Land Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise
GA: University of Georgia, Sea Grant – Sea Level Rise Planning & Research
FL: Florida’s Resilient Coasts: State Policy Framework for Adaptation (PDF)
FL: Multidisciplinary Review of Current Sea Level Rise Research in Florida  (University of Florida)
MS & AL: Mississippi and Alabama Sea Grant Consortium – Resilience in Coastal Communities
Gulf of Mexico States: Climate Community of Practice: Sea Level Rise Planning
LA: Coastal Protection & Restoration – Recommendations for Sea Level Rise Planning (Includes Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan)
CA: California’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Water Resources (2012)
CA: State Resources on Sea Level Rise and Adaptation Planning
CA: Adapting to Sea Level Rise Report (2012)
CA, OR, WA: Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon and Washington (2012)
OR: A Strategy for Adapting to Impacts of Climate Change on the Oregon Coast (2009)
OR: LiDAR Sea Level Rise Research (NOAA Digital Services)
WA: Addressing Sea Level Rise in Shoreline Master Programs (Guidance) (2007)
WA: Sea Level Rise Assessment: Impacts of Climate Change on the Coast (2007)
AK: Alaska’s Melting Permafrost and Melting Sea Ice (national research)
AK: Climate change impacts in Alaska (EPA)
NC: North Carolina Coastal Federation – Sea Level Rise

A note about North Carolina: Several state agencies, including the Departments of Environment & Natural Resources, Transportation and Commerce, all identified threats and risks from sea level rise in 2010. At the time, the state’s Governor signed a letter confirming this. Two years later, North Carolina’s State Senate passed a law that banned sea level rise adaptation planning based on the current science. The House of Representatives rejected the bill, but a compromised version of the bill called for a new study on sea level rise for North Carolina and a ban on exponential sea level rise predictions in modeling. Read this Scientific American article on NC and sea level rise, and the 2012 USGS study that found increasing sea level rise impacts on the coast between Cape Cod and the Carolinas. See “More unwanted national attention for North Carolina on sea level rise” (2013).

If you’re interested in a good summary of sea level rise policy in states, see this 2012 legislative report by Kristin Miller, et. al. (Connecticut General Assembly). It includes an analysis of sea level rise related policy in ten states (Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia.)

Update: Check out Nickolay Lamm’s Sea Level Rise Images Depict What U.S. Cities Could Look Like In Future (PHOTOS) – click here. 

Listen to the Call of the Wild…on your cell phone

Have you ever wanted to toss your phone out the window because you just get so sick of hearing that same ding-dong song? Well now you can answer the call of the wild! The Center for Biological Diversity offers a new list of free cell phone ringtones available for download. If you have a cell phone, you can set the ringtone to sound like the calls of rare and endangered species, such as a beluga whale, Stephen Colbert, Jr. (the famous North American eagle), the Cascades frog of the Northwest, the crawfish frog of the southeastern U.S., the Florida panther, a Grizzly bear, screech owls, the Southwestern willow flycatcher, whooping crane and an alligator. If you want, you can organize your contact list so that each member of your family, along with a few friends and colleagues, each gets an animal call for their number. Then when you’re at the office and you suddenly hear a screech owl, you’ll know it’s your mother-in-law calling, or if you’re perusing the produce section at the supermarket and hear the haunting call of a humpback whale, you’ll know it’s your best friend calling to spout off some news. For example, I’d assign the Grizzly bear to my dad’s phone number because he reminds me of Grizzly Addams. My grandmother would get the loon and my brother, the wolf. Be careful not to assign the whooping crane to anyone you hear from often, as one “whoop” goes a long way. Also, if you download the sound of the rattlesnake, and take your cell phone hiking, be careful you don’t spook the other hikers if you expect a lot of calls. I’ve decided to download one of the owls for my cell phone, so I always know hoots calling. and

Update March 2012: Alligator and swamp sounds for your phone:

CSI Wetlands: The Case of Illegal Dumping

If you’re like me, you liked playing the classic board game, Clue, on rainy nights at camp with whoever was willing to play. (I always won.) My brother, Tad, and I also had the old 1960s game, Lie Detector, and we played that for hours. Then we’d write clues and hide them for each other around the yard and in the woods, went on our own scavenger hunts, digging up treasures we’d buried for one another. (I buried his matchbox cars.) When the first CSI TV show aired, I was fascinated. I studied anthropology in college and loved the mysteries involved with uncovering “evidence” with forensics. I read mysteries. I even went so far as to obtain a copy of the CSI board game—but this time, my brother beat me while I was deeply puzzled by the elaborate clues. THIS is better: Geoforensics. What is that? According to the geologist Robert Hayes, CPG, “forensic geology is the scientific application of earth sciences to legal matters. Practically, this means that a forensic geologist identifies, analyzes, and compares earth materials, such as soil, rocks, minerals, and fossils found on or in a receptor (e.g., a suspect, a vehicle or other medium of transfer, such as water) to possible source areas (e.g., a crime scene, an alibi location, and/or a point of disposal/release).”  Really neat stuff!

For kids and students wanting to learn about geoforensics, check out:

Event: CSI: Lake Erie Tours Link History and Science, Ohio Sea Grant

Geoforensics links –

Wetland Video Games

In my search for news about wetlands, I often come across blogs and internet posts about wetland-themed video games. As a kid, our family did not have a computer until I was 14 and it was an used Commodore 64. It had very few programs. I used it to type school papers and my mother wrote articles for the local paper on it. My brother, Tad, got a copy of the 1980s video game, Frogger, in which players control the path of individual frogs (see over busy roads and through a wetland habitat full of predators, e.g. snakes, crocodiles, otters—and safely guide each frog home. Along the way, players must help the frog(s) catch bugs to eat, or escort a “lady frog” for bonus points. Since the ‘80s, there have been several spin-off games, including “Swampy’s Revenge.” I wasn’t very good at using the joystick (moving it sideways through the air doesn’t work or calling out, “look out for the crocodile!” does simply no good. Froggie dies. I was much better at dealing with real live frogs, rather than the virtual kind. For those curious about other wetland-themed video games, check out World of Warcraft: Conquer the Wetlands (for map, see this.) In this game, players fight giant fire-breathing salamanders instead of dragons). Or, a video game possibly based on the British comic character, “Master of the Marsh,” a muscle-bound hermit of the Fens, (for his skills, see this page.) including using “swampy terrain to his advantage over his enemies.”) In the 1995 video game, Wetlands, players act as an underwater/undercover agent and move through a “waterworld,” and shoot their enemies. Why? Because that’s the whole point of first-person shooter video games. Shoot ‘em. Kids not interested in shooter games can still play in a “virtual nature” in many other games, such as “Harvest Moon: Back to Nature” (see this post) in which players plant seeds, build a farm and “search for a mate.” Despite the mate search, it is rated “E” for everyone. That’s strange to me.

Meanwhile, visitation in national parks is still on the decline. Are kids more interested in playing in a virtual wetland, or video game version of “nature” than in a real national park or even their backyard? This article from a few years ago captures this question perfectly: “Nature Vs Nintendo: Video Games or National Parks” (May 2006)

Update: National Geographic “Hooked Reel ‘Em In Game” allows a player to fish in the Amazon, the Mekong River and Deep Seas. Challenging! It took me 20 min to catch a fish, then couldn’t reel it in fast enough, or the line broke. Have patience.

Update: 3/2011 – I had fun playing a new video game by Kinnect Adventures for XBox 360 in which I rode a raft through the rapids, streams and rivers, down waterfalls and jumped over obstacles along the way. In another aspect of the same game, I fixed leaks in a tank as marine life swam around me and hammerhead sharks tried to break in. Lots of fun with realistic aquatic effects. What’s unique about it is that it takes snapshots of your performance along the way! It doesn’t capture the most flattering expressions as you maneuver through tight spots and attempt to make it through obstacles.