Finding and Using Additional Information on Coastal Hazard Risks
Following are some sources for additional information on hazard risks your community may face. For details on how to use this information to help protect your community, see where to use additional information on coastal hazard risks.
Shoreline Change History
The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management's (CZM) Shoreline Change Project website provides detailed shoreline change maps showing the relative positions of historic shorelines, along with information on how to interpret these maps and data. (For South Shore communities [Hull to Plymouth], more recent data is available in the South Shore Coastal Hazards Characterization Atlas).
Shoreline change and other spatial data are also available through the new Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS), CZM's online mapping tool.
The U.S. Geological Survey has released the National Assessment of Shoreline Change: Historical Shoreline Change along the New England and Mid-Atlantic Coasts, a report that provides analysis and details on historical erosion rates for the U.S. coastline from Maine to Virginia.
Communities seeking more information on shoreline change and the risks that come with it can download the Heinz Center's Evaluation of Erosion Hazards (PDF, 3.9B), the 2000 report of the Heinz Center study to clarify the effects of erosion and erosion mapping.
Sea Level Rise Data and Projections
While the causes and future rates are still being debated, there is a general scientific consensus that sea levels are rising. Consequently, the effects of future, higher, sea levels should be considered when making siting and design decisions. For more information on current trends and predictions for sea level rise, see the following:
- The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Sea Levels Online graphs trends for three tide stations along the Massachusetts coastline.
- The South Shore Coastal Hazards Characterization Atlas Description of Variables (PDF, 1.1 MB) has detailed information for the Massachusetts coastline on pages 19-20.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides links to various Sea Level Rise Reports and has a Coastal Zones and Sea Level Rise page.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has extensive information on sea level rise available on their frequently updated web site.
- This Union of Concerned Scientists report (PDF, 540 KB) provides predictions on the effects of sea level rise in Massachusetts.
- Coastal communities can find general suggestions for means of adapting to rising sea levels and climate change in Preparing for Climate Change: A Guidebook for Local, Regional, and State Governments.
Storm surge is water that is pushed toward the shore by winds. This advancing surge combines with normal tides to create the storm tide, which can increase the effective sea level 25 feet or more. Wind driven waves are added on top of the storm surge, creating tremendous potential for extensive storm damage.
- For a map showing estimated 100-year storm surge elevations and another showing the difference between these events and annual events along the Massachusetts shoreline, see CZM's storm surge figure (PDF, 246 KB), which was produced as a part of the South Shore Coastal Hazards Characterization Atlas Description of Variables (PDF, 1.1 MB).
- The New England District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has created hurricane surge inundation maps in PDF format for New England's coastal communities (note: maps may be slow to download). GIS layers are also available. These maps and GIS layers were developed for evacuation planning purposes and represent worst case surge inundation scenarios.
Interested in making a local-scale inundation map or graphic to depict a future high tide or storm surge with sea level rise?
- NOAA has created a Coastal Inundation Mapping Guidebook (PDF, 1.4 MB) to help communities understand the process of mapping coastal inundation and some limitations, such as the resolution of elevation data.
- Hull's StormSmart Coasts pilot project illustrates how three-dimensional visualizations of flood events and sea level rise can be created. The project technical report (PDF, 6.4 MB) provides details on the methodology and includes images of Hull's critical facilities under varying flooding scenarios.
For projections on approximate wind speeds in your community during different categories of hurricanes, see National Weather Service's Hurricane Preparedness website.
Coastal Hazards Characterization Atlas Data
The South Shore Coastal Hazards Characterization Atlas was developed by CZM to provide South Shore communities (between Hull and the Cape Cod Canal) with information to help review projects that are in areas vulnerable to flooding, erosion, and other coastal hazards.
In most communities, there are areas that flood that are not mapped as flood zones on the community's Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). Community decisions about land use in floodplains should be based on the actual floodplain, which should be derived from all available information, including the FIRM's data, relevant parts of the Flood Insurance Study, and your community's experiences. During and immediately after storm events, your community can record the true (as opposed to modeled) extent of a storm. This can be done in many ways—if aerial photographs are available, these can be used, as can physically recording the extent of floodwaters (high-water marks) during the peak hours of a storm event or soon after the storm when the evidence is still visible.
Where to Use Additional Information on Coastal Hazard Risks
As your community's understanding of local flood and erosion risks improves, so do your chances of successfully addressing them. For example, more detailed information on areas prone to flooding, erosion, or storm damage will allow your community to better plan for development in its master plan, more efficiently prepare for emergencies in its disaster response plan, and more effectively help educate its citizens as to the real risks they face. Following are some areas where your community can use its newly found hazard information.
- Regulations and Development Standards
- Emergency Services
- Education and Outreach