Evaluating coastal landscape response to sea-level rise in the northeastern United States: approach and methods

Open-File Report 2014-1252
By: , and 



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.

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., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20141252.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Decision-Support Requirements
  • Characterizations of Sea-Level Rise Effects on the Coast
  • Modeling Approach
  • Model Inputs
  • Model Predictions
  • Dataset Access and Assessment
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Evaluating coastal landscape response to sea-level rise in the northeastern United States: approach and methods
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2014-1252
DOI 10.3133/ofr20141252
Edition Version 1.0: Originally posted February 13, 2015; Version 2.0: December 21, 2015
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description Report: vi, 26 p.; Dataset; Project Web Page
Country United States
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details