The Gulf of Mexico Alliance held a Northern Gulf of Mexico Sea Level Rise Data, Scenarios, & Modeling Workshop on August 7th-9th, 2018. The goals were to develop a template for developing sea level rise scenarios; and, to examine recent geospatial outputs both with a focus on modeling landscape change.

The workshop was in partnership with the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and the Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative.  Nearly 50 people attended the event located at the Gulf Coast Research Lab’s Marine Education Center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  Invited experts as well a diverse group of state, federal and academic members of the Alliance’s Community Resilience, Habitat Resources, and Wildlife & Fisheries Priority Issue Teams, attended the workshop.

Participants spent the first half of the workshop examining sea level rise information to inform developing the consensus-based template. The session focused on contemporary data sources of historical and predictive sea levels that are used to develop sea level rise scenarios for modeling landscape change.  Discussions included “in the weeds” considerations of the complexities in understanding tide gauge and satellite altimetry data as predictors of the historical rate of sea level rise specifically to the Gulf of Mexico.  Attendees also discussed the available predictive data from climate change models and how to use that data if it could be applied to the development of future sea level rise scenarios for modeling landscape change.  Several uncertainties remain regarding data considerations and methodologies identified during the session. The Alliance and its partners will work to address these uncertainties before efforts are made to finalize the scenario-development template.

During the second half of the workshop, the attendees examined the geospatial outputs from landscape change models applied recently to portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast, specifically the

  • Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s Master Plan Integrated Compartment Model,
  • Northern Gulf of Mexico Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise Project’s Hydro-MEM Model,
  • Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model, and
  • US Geological Survey’s Tidal Saline Wetland Inland Migration Model.

Understanding the available models as “tools in a toolbox” and communicating that information about these resources to Gulf stakeholders has long been a priority of the Alliance.  To our knowledge, this workshop represented the first time that members of the management, modeling and scientific communities have conducted side-by-side comparisons of model outputs. Comparisons were made for the same sea level rise scenarios and time steps in the Northern Gulf of Mexico Region to allow for evaluation of models with similar tendencies. This helps validate the reliability of models. Attendees identified several model performance uncertainties that need to be explored to further the model “toolbox” evaluation.

The Alliance and its workshop partners are developing a comprehensive meeting summary, which will be available in the next few weeks on the Alliance’s webpage.  In the meantime, the Alliance Priority Issue Teams are also planning to conduct several discrete data development actions as short-term follow up and communication back to the workshop participants.  The Alliance intends that this workshop was just the latest in a series of information-gathering steps necessary to achieve the broader goal of developing a data-driven, comprehensive Gulf Coast Adaptation and Resilience Plan.

Learn more about the Priority Issue Teams.