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New NOAA sea level rise guide will help Pinellas County make resiliency plans

report graphic

Image source: Pinellas County

Pinellas County's sustainability and resiliency coordinator said he finds NOAA's application guide helpful as he makes plans for an area that's already experiencing tidal impacts and effects to infrastructure.

Federal officials have created a new guide to help local governments plan for sea level rise.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's application guide is in response to February’s Interagency Sea Level Rise Technical Report that projects waters along the U.S. coast will rise by about a foot by 2050 — that means the next 30 years will see roughly the same amount of sea level rise that was observed over the past 100 years.

Here are some takeaways from the report, highlighted by NOAA:

Sea level along the U.S. coastline is projected to rise, on average, 10 - 12 inches in the next three decades, although it will vary regionally.

By 2050, “moderate” (typically damaging) flooding is expected to occur, on average, more than 10 times as often as it does today, and can be intensified by local factors.

Failing to curb future emissions could cause an additional 1.5 - 5 feet of rise for a total of 3.5 - 7 feet by the end of this century.

William Sweet, an oceanographer with NOAA, said the agency’s guide to this information, along with maps it provides, put the science in plain language for community planners so they can apply it to local decision making.

"You could actually use this information and use the maps to get a sense of where that new height might be,” he said. “For existing infrastructure or streets, churches, schools, you name it: what's the risk of flooding now? And how is that likely to change in the future? How's the flood frequencies expected to increase?"

The guide was a consensus of several extension agents that have close connections with people on the ground making decisions, according to Sweet.