Community exposure to potential climate-driven changes to coastal-inundation hazards for six communities in Essex County, Massachusetts

TitleCommunity exposure to potential climate-driven changes to coastal-inundation hazards for six communities in Essex County, Massachusetts
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsAbdollahian, Nina, Ratliff Jamie L., and Wood Nathan J.
KeywordsAtlantic coast, conservation, decision-making, sea level rise

Understanding if and how community exposure to coastal hazards may change over time is crucial information for coastal managers tasked with developing climate adaptation plans. This report summarizes estimates of population and asset exposure to coastal-inundation hazards associated with sea-level-rise and storm scenarios in six coastal communities of the Great Marsh region of Essex County, Massachusetts. This U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) analysis was conducted in collaboration with National Wildlife Federation (NWF) representatives, who are working with local stakeholders to develop local climate adaptation plans for the Towns of Salisbury, Newbury, Rowley, Ipswich, and Essex and the City of Newburyport (hereafter referred to as communities). Community exposure was characterized by integrating various community indicators (land cover and land use, population, economic assets, critical facilities, and infrastructure) with coastal-hazard zones that estimate inundation extents and water depth for three time periods.

Estimates of community exposure are based on the presence of people, businesses, and assets in hazard zones that are calculated from geospatial datasets using geographic-information-system (GIS) tools. Results are based on current distributions of people and assets in hazard zones and do not take into account projections of human population, asset, or land-use changes over time. Results are not loss estimates based on engineering analysis or field surveys for any particular facility and do not take into account aspects of individual and household preparedness before an extreme event, adaptive capacity of a community during an event, or long-term resilience of individuals and communities after an event. Potential losses would match reported inventories only if all residents, business owners, public managers, and elected officials were unaware of what to do if warned of an imminent threat, failed to take protective measures during an extreme event, or failed to implement any long-term strategies to mitigate potential impacts. This analysis is intended to serve as a foundation for additional risk-related studies, plans, and mitigation efforts that are tailored to local needs. After a summary of the geospatial methods used in the analysis, results are organized by community so that local officials can easily use them in their local adaptation planning efforts.