Monitoring Sea Level Rise at the Local and Regional Scale

Shoreline habitats and infrastructure are currently being affected by sea level rise (SLR) and impacts will only worsen as global temperatures continue to rise. Decisions made by governments and individuals to adapt to SLR will have profound consequences for coastal ecosystems, transportation systems, and urban settings.

Federal guidance for adaptation relies on predictive models to guide planning. This includes planning for the recovery of endangered species in the face of SLR, which is mandated by the federal Endangered Species Act. FHWA and other federal organizations have recognized that new monitoring methods will be needed in order to collect new kinds of data and at a finer scale and wider extent. California among other states, provides extensive step-by-step guidance on how to plan for SLR, including the use of predictive models, and identifies the need for monitoring as well. Despite the recognized need for monitoring methods, no detailed guidance is given at the state level in California or federal level for how to do this.

Measurement of sea level has historically been achieved by using tide gauges and global satellite altimetry. There is no consistent method or system for measuring and recording shoreline change over large areas and at fine resolution other than infrequent and expensive LiDAR overflights that do not capture seasonal fluctuations. This policy brief summarizes findings from the project which utilizes a method to monitor shoreline and infrastructure changes in response to SLR using a network of time-lapse cameras.