Inside the Coastal Resilience Web Tool

The forthcoming tool allows for interaction with exposure, threat, and asset models for the U.S. coastline

NEMAC has partnered with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to create a coastal resilience assessment for the United States to help pinpoint critical areas that face potential exposure to flood damage.

The assessment is founded on the development of an exposure index that takes into account a community’s assets and coastal flood threats to create two different indices. Those indices are then used to identify natural, open landscapes that are best suited for resilience projects to provide benefit for both human and wildlife communities.

A new online web tool built to allow interaction with the exposure, threat, and asset models is almost up and running. To test out its capabilities, I analyzed my hometown of South Riding, Virginia, to see how my community ranks according to this assessment.

Asset Index for “Area 1”
Threat Index for “Area 1”
Exposure Index for “Area 1”

South Riding is quite possibly the most suburban place on the planet, so I imagined the most significant inputs of the area to be population density, critical infrastructure, and critical facilities. I drew “Area 1” around my neighborhood and looked at the detailed report. To my surprise, population density was the only asset of significance, with an overall community asset rating of 2/10.

Soil Erodibility for “Area 1”

I was interested to see that the most prominent threat to my community was soil erodibility, followed by impermeable soils. Of course, this makes sense when you consider the high rate of development in the area. South Riding, as well as most of Loudoun County, is isolated from bodies of water, and therefore sea level rise is extremely low (so negligible that it doesn’t show up on the Threat Index analysis). The threat ranking for “Area 1” is 5/10, higher than I would have guessed but still not astronomical relative to the rest of the coastline.

These factors contribute to an overall Community Exposure Index rating of 7/10. This number represents the threats and assets of South Riding combined. The Fish and Wildlife Index displays extremely low rankings for the area, with 1/10 for the Aquatic Index and 0/10 for the Terrestrial Index. This is consistent with what I know of the area: South Riding is highly developed and therefore has little wildlife or environmentally lush areas in the first place. For this reason, there are no Resilience Hubs in my neighborhood, and it wouldn’t be considered a priority for resilience projects.

Resilience Hubs surrounding “Area 1”

I also wanted to see how my particular house would rank, and the Web Tool allowed me to easily do so! I simply searched for my address and then clicked the Identify tool—and was greeted with a detailed graph showing the various indices of that location.

Climate science often seems abstract or irrelevant to present day, but it is almost certainly the most pressing issue of our lifetime. The Coastal Resilience Web Tool helps quantify how coastal flooding, exacerbated by climate change, can affect you personally, making the abstract into something tangible and current.

This tool is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in seeing the potential damages of coastal flooding, including sea level rise, in a logical and accessible way.