Guam- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA has developed an online tool to visualize the potential impacts that various sea levels have on coastal communities, such as Guam.
The Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer is the latest resource created by NOAA’s Coastal Services Center to show how different sea levels can impact coastal areas. The viewer displays potential future sea levels and simulations of various levels at local landmarks. In fact, the University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology partnered with NOAA to perform the mapping for Guam, the CNMI and Hawaii.
Geospatial Analyst Ben Reder tells PNC by phone that it is mainly a tool to help visualize potential scenarios that involve between one and six feet of water. The viewer can also help decision makers prioritize potential high risk areas and examine how tidal flooding can be more frequent with sea level changes.
“It’s made to give users a planning tool that they could model different scenarios with whatever matches their planning circle is thinking about or a number of scenarios that people are thinking about,” said Reder.
Reder and a team of NOAA officials did a lot of the actual mapping for the tool, which uses high quality elevation data and ocean surface data with high tide averages. The resource is the first of its kind and available on a nation-wide level.
“It’s really out there to give people that preliminary look at sea level rise, knowing that this is just a high level screening tool,” said Reder.
Reder points out this resource does not predict time frames nor does it show projected sea level rise levels. It also does not take into account landscape changes such as erosion or future construction.
“It really is a snapshot in time,” said Reder. “So, if you had development occurring yesterday, things are getting skewed on a daily basis…the terrain, the landscape is changing. So it doesn’t take into consideration those sorts of tide scope changes either.”
Reder mentions the tool fulfills a need in the coastal management community to plan adaptive actions on a policy level. for example, he notes data for the southern region of Guam is potentially impacted by sea level rise scenarios up to 6 feet.
The viewer shows a good portion of the southern village of Merizo overtaken by water. Parts of Inarajan are also shown to be partially submerged. In addition, the portion of Piti between Naval Base Guam and Cabras Power Plant, where flooding is currently a problem, displays a deeper issue for traveling motorists. Even the capital city of Hagatna on the scenario-based tool is affected by an expanding Hagatna river.
“It’s a way to kick start these sorts of conversations, especially when people don’t have mapping technology on the computer, or at least policy and decision makers usually don’t,” Reder said.
The viewer also has a marsh tab that models habitat migration, something Reder says is valued by restoration or conservation minded people. Overall, he adds the free tool is available for the public to use.
“There are 2 versions of the tool and we now have a version of the tool that’s iPad and mobile tool friendly,” stated Reder. “So you can use it on your android devices. It’s called the beta version on the website but you’ll see two options out there.”
To learn more about the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer, log on to csc.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/tools/slrviewer .
As a disclaimer, the site may be temporarily off-line as a result of the federal government shutdown.