Adaptation: Adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment (IPCC)
We have observed glaciers melting. We have measured sea level rise. We have seen the devastating impacts of heavy downpours from Hurricane Matthew on flood-prone communities. The visual evidence for climate change is growing, the climate models are becoming more robust, and the impacts of extreme weather events are becoming even more costly as the number of Americans living near the coast continues to grow. By taking action now to adapt to future climate change projections, communities can reduce loss of life and property and interruptions to business, transportation, and utility services.
Here are five examples of adaptation tools that can help lessen the impact of storm surge and flooding during extreme weather events.
Coastal armoring, such as levees and seawalls, improves shoreline protection in coastal areas and along waterways.
In Aberdeen (UK), seawalls protect the beaches and tourist attractions from storms and high tides. Photo credit: Lizzie @ UKbeaches.guide
Elevating land or buildings in flood-prone areas also provides defense against rising sea levels, flooding, and storms.
Photo credit: blog.trilogybuilds.com
Managed retreat safely removes settlement from harms way. This planning tool also can be used to discourage new development in flood-prone areas.
At the Cape Cod National Seashore, coastal erosion is having a major impact on tourist facilities and parking lots. The new visitor center is built entirely of modular units that can be disassembled and moved by cranes. Photo credit: Friends of the Pleistocene, 2013.
Floodable development is the term for structures that are built to withstand floods or capture stormwater before it hits the pavement.
The breakaway floors designed for the Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence provide additional protection from flooding.
Landscape design is another tool that can improve flood absorption, slow erosion, and also provide habitat for plants and wildlife.
Examples of landscape design include green stormwater infrastructure, vegetated buffers, and permeable pavement.
Recognizing the advantages to being pro-active before storms occur, coastal communities are beginning to incorporate climate adaptation strategies into their long-term planning efforts. Norfolk is one example of a city on the forefront of planning. Second only to New Orleans in vulnerability to sea level rise, Norfolk floods often and quickly from precipitation and tidal flooding. In 2012, the Norfolk Flood Strategy was adopted to “reduce flood danger and help the community cope better with severe storms”(1). This four-part strategy helps the city and its residents to plan, prepare, mitigate, and communicate about flooding-related issues. Some examples of adaptation measures included in the plan are: revising building codes to require higher elevations for new construction and renovations; engineering shoreline buffers to provide natural barriers to storm surge; restoring wetlands to slow stormwater runoff; and developing interactive maps to help residents determine their flood risk and insurance needs before flooding occurs.
Watch a short video about Norfolk’s latest flood mitigation study to learn how community members can be involved in the adaptation process.