Enhanced Sea-level Prediction System to Improve Coastal Flooding Plans

June 05, 2014

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – As the Gulf Coast begins another hurricane season, researchers with the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science (CBI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi will be improving the data collection system to allow for more accurate planning and predictions for flooding and sea level rise.

CBI has been awarded $1.35 million to enhance the National Spatial Reference System that helps model and predict sea level rise. 

Forecasters are predicting a hurricane season with one or two major hurricanes, but flooding can still pose significant threat, especially to the vital infrastructure along the Gulf coast, which includes 10 of the 14 largest ports. The long-term stability of this region’s infrastructure is in question due to the impact of sea level rise and associated increases in risks of flooding. Growing Gulf coastal populations, up 32 percent from 1990 to 2008, compound the risks. Preparing for sea level rise, flooding and other impacts requires accurate data about what’s occurring at the water’s edge. Collection methods for this type of geospatial data will be enhanced through this project.

The funding, from the National Geodetic Survey, a project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, provides the foundation for modeling along the northern Gulf of Mexico through the National Spatial Reference System.

The project focuses on an area that is most exposed to inundation from tropical storm surge and has a high risk of flooding and long-term effects of climate change and subsidence.

“We are excited to be part of this project to provide the latest geospatial data with information from tide gauges, sea level observations, land elevation reference points, and 3D positioning,” said Dr. Gary Jeffress, Director of CBI. “This system will help local and regional leaders plan for improved resilience to the impacts of sea level rise and flooding and develop long-term strategies to address impacts along the northern Gulf of Mexico.”

The project will extend and improve monitoring stations from Texas to the Florida Keys to provide additional measurements, including more accurate data regarding elevations, 3D positioning, subsidence rates and sea level observations, that will establish ongoing monitoring of the relative sea-level change along the northern Gulf of Mexico in the coming decades.

Dr. Jeffress, Dr. Ruizhi Chen and James Rizzo, with CBI and Texas Spatial Reference Center, will lead the project for A&M-Corpus Christi. Researchers from University of Southern Mississippi, Louisiana State University and Florida Atlantic University are also partners in the project.