Over one quarter of the units of the National Park System occur along ocean coastlines. Ongoing changes in relative sea levels and the potential for increasing storm surges due to anthropogenic climate change and other factors present challenges to national park managers. This report summarizes work done by the University of Colorado in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) to provide sea level rise and storm surge projections to coastal area national parks using information from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and storm surge scenarios from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) models. This research is the first to analyze IPCC and NOAA projections of sea level and storm surge under climate change for U.S. national parks. Results illustrate potential future inundation and storm surge under four greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. In addition to including multiple scenarios, the analysis considers multiple time horizons (2030, 2050 and 2100). This analysis provides sea level rise projections for 118 park units and storm surge projections for 79 of those parks.
Within the National Park Service, the National Capital Region is projected to experience the highest average rate of sea level change by 2100. The coastline adjacent to the Outer Banks Group of parks in the Southeast Region is projected to experience the highest sea level rise by 2100. The Southeast Region is projected to experience the highest storm surges based on historical data and NOAA storm surge models.
These results are intended to inform park planning and adaptation strategies for resources managed by the National Park Service. Sea level change and storm surge pose considerable risks to infrastructure, archeological sites, lighthouses, forts, and other historic structures in coastal units of the national park system. Understanding projections for continued change can better guide protection of such resources for the benefit of long-term visitor enjoyment and safety.
Caffrey, M. A., R. L. Beavers and Hoffman, C. H., "Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Projections for the National Park Service" (2018). Federal Documents. 29.