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Open-File Report 2014–1252

Evaluating Coastal Landscape Response to Sea-Level Rise in the Northeastern United States—Approach and Methods

By Erika E. Lentz, Sawyer R. Stippa, E. Robert Thieler, Nathaniel G. Plant, Dean B. Gesch, and Radley M. Horton

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (2.65 MB)Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey is examining effects of future sea-level rise on the coastal landscape from Maine to Virginia by producing spatially explicit, probabilistic predictions using sea-level projections, vertical land movement rates (due to isostacy), elevation data, and land-cover data. Sea-level-rise scenarios used as model inputs are generated by using multiple sources of information, including Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 models following representative concentration pathways 4.5 and 8.5 in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. A Bayesian network is used to develop a predictive coastal response model that integrates the sea-level, elevation, and land-cover data with assigned probabilities that account for interactions with coastal geomorphology as well as the corresponding ecological and societal systems it supports. The effects of sea-level rise are presented as (1) level of landscape submergence and (2) coastal response type characterized as either static (that is, inundation) or dynamic (that is, landform or landscape change). Results are produced at a spatial scale of 30 meters for four decades (the 2020s, 2030s, 2050s, and 2080s). The probabilistic predictions can be applied to landscape management decisions based on sea-level-rise effects as well as on assessments of the prediction uncertainty and need for improved data or fundamental understanding. This report describes the methods used to produce predictions, including information on input datasets; the modeling approach; model outputs; data-quality-control procedures; and information on how to access the data and metadata online.

First posted February 13, 2015

Revised December 21, 2015

For additional information, contact:
Director, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
384 Woods Hole Road
Quissett Campus
Woods Hole, MA 02543
(508) 548-8700

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Suggested citation:

Lentz, E.E., Stippa, S.R., Thieler, E.R., Plant, N.G., Gesch, D.B., and Horton, R.M., 2015, Evaluating coastal landscape response to sea-level rise in the northeastern United States—Approach and methods (ver. 2.0, December 2015): U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2014–1252, 26 p.,

ISSN 2331–1258 (online)





Decision-Support Requirements

Characterizations of Sea-Level Rise Effects on the Coast

Modeling Approach

Model Inputs

Model Predictions

Dataset Access and Assessment

References Cited

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