Climate Change and Sea Level Rise
The impacts of climate change have already been observed here in New Jersey. New Jersey coastal areas, including the Barnegat Bay estuary, are already experiencing one of the highest rates of sea-level rise in the continental United States. Current observations have shown recent rates of approximately 4 mm per year (about 16 inches per century) of sea level rise.
Though these rates seem small and perhaps of little immediate concern to many people, these modest rates are recognized by national and regional experts to be of sufficient magnitude to transform the character of the mid-Atlantic coast, with a large-scale loss of tidal wetlands and possible disintegration of barrier islands. Of equally great concern, future rates of sea-level rise in the region are projected to nearly double. Estuaries and coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise and other aspects of climate change (e.g., higher temperatures, more precipitation, invasive species, and more frequent and intense storms, such as Superstorm Sandy). In October of 2013, the Rutgers Climate Institute released a State of the Climate Report. The report provides an updated discussion on climate trends and projections for New Jersey.
Increasingly, the impacts of sea-level rise and our changing climate on New Jersey’s coastline is receiving the collective attention of the BBP and our many stakeholders. Recognizing Barnegat Bay’s vulnerability to climate change impacts, the BBP received funding through the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s “Climate Ready Estuary Program” to support research, planning, and outreach activities to address future impacts of climate change.
Adapting to climate change and sea level rise is a local challenge that requires site-specific remedies. As Superstorm Sandy and other recent storm events have demonstrated, local planners and managers need access to detailed information on critical infrastructure that is potentially at risk, and the tools to plan and prepare for the future. To address these needs, two new online tools have been developed for use in New Jersey – NJ Flood Mapper and Getting to Resilience.
NJ Flood Mapper
The NJ Flood Mapper is an interactive mapping tool that provides ready access to sea level rise simulations and FEMA flood/storm surge maps, along with location of key facilities, coastal evacuation routes, and social and environmental vulnerabilities. Utilizing a user-friendly Google Maps platform, the website helps users to visualize different flooding scenarios and the potential impacts. Users can see how sea level rise from one to six feet and coastal flooding events will affect key facilities – hospitals, schools, police and fire stations – and emergency evacuation routes. Users can also print their maps and share them electronically with others, and see on-the-ground photo visualizations of sea level rise and flooding impacts at iconic Jersey Shore locations.
Getting To Resilience
Developed to be used in association with NJ Flood Mapper, Getting to Resilience is the next step in community planning for the risks associated with climate change and sea level rise. Getting to Resilience is an online self-assessment tool developed to assist communities in reducing vulnerability and increase preparedness by linking planning, hazard mitigation, and adaptation. The Getting to Resilience questionnaire was developed to be completed by a set of individuals from a community and to be completed over a period of time. Creating an account allows key municipal officials and staff to work together on one set of answers. Participants in the online assessment will include land use planners, hazard mitigation planners, floodplain managers, emergency managers, stormwater managers, natural resource planners, municipal engineers, municipal leaders, zoning and permitting officials, and public works officials. Through the Getting to Resilience interactive process, communities will learn how their preparedness can yield valuable points with voluntary programs like FEMA’s Community Rating System and Sustainable Jersey. The assessment process will also increase the community’s understanding of where future vulnerabilities should be addressed through hazard mitigation planning.
New Jersey residents can get up-to-date information about coastal flood risk information from FEMA. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is committed to providing accurate flood hazard information and Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) to help communities and their residents plan for and reduce the risk from flooding. FEMA’s message is “Know your risk, Know your role, Take action.”