CSDMS 2017 annual meeting: Modeling Coupled Earth and Human Systems - The Dynamic Duo

Pathways at the coastal land margin to assess climate change impacts with transdisciplinary research outcomes

Scott Hagen

LSU, Center for Coastal Resiliency, United States

Our extensive transdisciplinary efforts since 2010 in the northern Gulf of Mexico (Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle) have resulted in an advanced capability to model and assess hydrodynamic and ecological impacts of climate change at the coastal land margin (visit The concerted efforts of natural and social scientists as well as engineers have contributed to a paradigm shift that goes well beyond “bathtub” approaches. Potential deleterious effects to barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, marshes, etc., are now better understood. This is because the methodology enables assessment of not just eustatic sea level rise (SLR), but gets to the basis of projections of climate change and the associated impacts, i.e., carbon emission scenarios. The paradigm shift, input from coastal resource managers, and future expected conditions now provides a rationale to evaluate and quantify the ability of natural and nature-based feature (NNBF) approaches to mitigate the present and future effects of surge and nuisance flooding.
Over the majority of the 20th century, the largely linear rate of eustatic SLR was realized by thermal expansion of seawater as a function of a gradual increase in the average annual global temperature. Global satellite altimetry indicates that the rate of global mean SLR has accelerated from approximately 1.6 to 3.4 mm/year. While the year-by-year acceleration of the rate of rise cannot be measured adequately, it is reasonable to assume that it was relatively stable throughout the 20th century. For the 21st century, general circulation models project that posed atmospheric carbon emission scenarios will result in higher global average temperatures. A warmer global system will introduce new mechanisms (e.g., land ice loss, isotatic adjustments, and changes in land water storage) that will contribute to relatively abrupt changes in sea state levels. The additions to thermal expansion will drive higher sea levels and the increases in sea level will be attained by further accelerations in the rate of the rise. Because of the nature of the new mechanisms that will govern sea levels, it is unlikely that future accelerations in the rate of rise will be smooth.
To further address the complications associated with relatively abrupt changes in SLR and related impacts of climate change at the coastal land margin we intend to: (1) refine, enhance, and extend the coupled dynamic, bio-geo-physical models of coastal morphology, tide, marsh, and surge; (2) advance the paradigm shift for climate change assessments by linking economic impact analysis and ecosystem services valuation directly to these coastal dynamics; (3) pursue transdisciplinary outcomes by engaging a management transition advisory group throughout the entire project process; and (4) deliver our results via a flexible, multi-platform mechanism that allows for region-wide or place-based assessment of NNBFs. This presentation will share examples of our recent efforts and discuss progress to-date.

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Of interest for:
  • Coastal Working Group
  • Human Dimensions Focus Research Group