On September 7, 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) announced that it had awarded over $4.6 million in fiscal year 2021 to fund resilience and climate adaptation research.
The research will inform communities on how to best address sea level rise affecting coastal ecosystems, communities, infrastructure, and surface transportation. The projects will also investigate the effectiveness of natural features or restored coastal habitats to enhance coastal resilience.
Funding under NOAA’s Effects of Sea Level Rise Program will support five new and eight continuing research projects in 21 states. NOAA is partnering with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to co-fund two of the new projects.
The complex challenges of sea level rise, coastal flooding, and increased storm frequency pose increasing risks to our nation’s communities and their surrounding ecosystems. Storm surge and coastal flooding that alters shorelines also represent a significant threat to ports, roads, public transportation and rail.
These awards focus on assessing the performance of conventional engineering approaches versus nature-based approaches to mitigate the effects of sea level rise and flooding on coastal ecosystems and communities. By combining field research with models and tools that can predict vulnerability and resilience, the projects will identify the most effective actions and land management decisions that consider both human and ecological needs.
“Our Effects of Sea Level Rise program supports science that will inform management decisions to reduce the risks of flooding and sea level rise to coastal communities, and determine the effectiveness of a range of different management actions that are being considered for improving coastal resilience,” said Steve Thur, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. “This is accomplished by enabling diverse science teams to work directly with partners that make decisions on how to protect our coasts from flooding.”
NOAA is collaborating with the Federal Highway Administration to award $1.4 million in fiscal year 2021 for two projects which focus specifically on science to inform mitigation of sea level rise impacts to transportation infrastructure. This research will evaluate the impact of coastal flooding on coastal road and ferry infrastructure.
In addition, the projects aim to improve understanding of how flooding resulting from both gradual changes and extreme events increase the rate of pavement deterioration and trigger pavement failures that require reconstruction. This requires a greater understanding of how overland flooding and groundwater combine to weaken the underlying layers of the pavement structure.
These collaborative projects will bring together diverse teams of scientists that include pavement engineers, coastal engineers, ecologists, social scientists, economists, and extension experts.
“These projects bring forth NOAA’s strengths as related to natural and nature-based feature approaches to mitigate the effects of sea level rise, coastal habitats, and regional sea level rise modeling, to complement the Federal Highway Administration’s expertise in transportation system performance,” said LaToya Johnson, Pavement Design and Performance team leader with the Office of Preconstruction, Construction, and Pavements within FHWA.
These awards contribute to a larger NOAA effort to provide science to inform decisions, conserve priority ecosystems and advance the use of natural infrastructure to lessen the effects of coastal hazards.
NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for NOAA’s National Ocean Service and its partners, bringing research, scientific information and tools to help balance the nation’s ecological, social and economic goals. Visit our website for more about NCCOS research.
Photo (courtesy of NCDOT) shows erosion along Highway 12 in the Outer Banks of North Carolina after Hurricane Dorian in September 2019.