The coastal energy infrastructure of several U.S. metropolitan cities is at risk from several climate change factors, especially sea level rise. With no current baseline understanding of the specific threat sea level rise poses to coastal energy infrastructure along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts, a proof-of-concept approach for identifying threats needed to be developed and tested.
Four metropolitan statistical areas were chosen—New York, Miami, Houston, and Los Angeles—based on proximity to the coast, past exposure to significant storm events, and geographic dispersion along the coastlines likely to be affected by sea level rise. To identify potential threats to energy facilities in 2050 and 2100, the project team combined data and information from the following sources: the National Climate Assessment forecasts of sea level rise; data on the locations of energy facilities; and NOAA’s Digital Coast Sea Level Rise Viewer, tidal datums, and a publication, Sea Level Variations in the U.S. 1854-2006. The Sea Level Rise Viewer allowed the project team to map areas that are likely to be inundated by sea level increases between one and six feet. The tidal datums helped team members to adjust the National Climate Assessment sea level rise forecast to the specific localities and local trends studied.
The study successfully demonstrated that NOAA data can work in tandem with data from other agencies to help communities anticipate risks from sea level rise. The process allowed the team to map the amount of local sea level rise and estimate when energy facilities would be inundated or impacted. The information is being shared with relevant city administrators and sustainability directors, and the analysis is being extended to other cities.