Lifting the fog on sea level rise tools

Lifting the fog on sea level rise tools

With so many sea level rise tools and models to choose from, how do you know what tool to use and when in planning and management considerations? Just a few years ago, there was still a significant need for more decision-support tools. Since then, modelers and tool developers have risen to the challenge, and collaborated on a broad range of innovative and easy to use decision-support tools. Increasingly, we see tools that feature user-friendly platforms, intuitive interfaces, and data that links to planning and decision-making.

Yet, despite all of these advances, outreach and communication professionals in California have observed a wide gap between the tools and their target end-users. Put simply, people still experience challenges accessing the right tool for the right situation. Coastal decision-makers, overtaxed with competing priorities, don’t seem to be adopting the tools developed specifically for them, despite extensive stakeholder engagement in many cases. Why the gap?

A collaborative of science translators and climate adaptation specialists was formed in the San Francisco Bay Area, and began to brainstorm solutions to bridge the gap between decision-support tools and planning. The goal of the project; “Lifting the Fog: Bringing Clarity to Sea Level Rise and Shoreline Change Models and Tools,” was to create a collaborative communication framework to help California coastal decision-makers navigate the range of available sea level rise planning tools, and to inform tool developers of future planning needs. This project was developed by a coalition of federal, state and non-profit entities including: NOAA Office for Coastal Management (formally the Coastal Services Center), Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, The Nature Conservancy, San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), Coravai LLC, and Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. This collaborative focused on a number of key models, tools and projects that have recently been developed including:

  • NOAA Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer
  • Surging Seas
  • Cal-Adapt: Exploring California’s Climate
  • The Impacts of Sea Level Rise on California’s Coasts
  • Coastal Resilience Ventura
  • CoSMos 3.0 Southern California
  • FEMA San Francisco Pilot/Proof of Concept
  • Our Coast, Our Future
  • Silicon Valley 2.0
The primary activities of the Lifting the Fog collaborative included two workshops for sea level rise tool developers and users. These workshops were hosted in May 2014 in Oakland, California and August 2014 in Sacramento, California. They provided a unique opportunity for tool developers to discuss approaches, lessons learned and opportunities for collaboration; and for users to interact directly with developers and share perspectives on opportunities and challenges associated with the utilization of tools in decision-making.

Lessons Learned

There were a number of key findings from this project based on workshop proceedings, a final synthesis report, and evaluations. What we observed overall were a number of ongoing barriers to the adoption of tools by intended users. Some of the suggested strategies for alleviating these barriers are:

Provide continued training and technical assistance to support and improve knowledge of climate adaptation and coastal flooding planning best practices.
Practitioners continue to need practical examples that they can learn from and apply to their work, with a focus on increasing adaptation knowledge, as well as understanding, accommodating, and communicating uncertainty in adaptation planning. In my work at the Coastal Training Program of the San Francisco Bay NERR, I see this time and time again when doing needs assessments for coastal decision-makers. Case studies are one way to effectively provide these kinds of practical examples.

Engage stakeholders early and often.
Decision-support tool developers have found innovative ways to engage stakeholders in the development process. This kind of engagement is critical so that the final products answer questions relevant to management.

Support continued outreach with coordination.
In California, it has been suggested that the tool development community identify a single contact person to be a resource to coastal decision-makers looking to utilize tools. Through the Lifting the Fog website, the collaborative is working to build continued coordination. The website will be a central resource providing information about tools, case studies, trainings, and upcoming events.

For more information about the Lifting the Fog project, go to:

Co-authors: Dani Boudreau, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, Kelley Higgason, Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, Rebecca Lunde, NOAA Office for Coastal Management, Sarah Newkirk, The Nature Conservancy in California, Marina Psaros, Coravai LLC, John Rozum, TBG for NOAA Office for Coastal Management

image via Heidi Nutters, SF NERR