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Jump-start community discussions about hazard impacts with maps and information that show people and places exposed to coastal flooding.



Through land use planning, development and coastal management decisions, local decision-makers play a key role in influencing the resilience of coastal communities to climate-change related sea level rise and storm surge. As both the exposure to hazards and the underlying system vulnerability are spatially varying, any adaptation response will also be a locally varying decision-making challenge. Faced with a variety of conflicting mandates and uncertainty as to the appropriate responses, local land use planners and managers are increasingly relying upon place-based decision support system tools that outline a range of geographically targeted management options. A necessary first step is a better understanding of the scope of potential hazards and the exposure of key infrastructure and vulnerable populations to inundation, whether due to sea level rise alone or to the combined effects of storm-related flooding.

Our goal is to provide a diverse community of concerned parties in the state of New Jersey interested in coastal management and conservation greater access to relevant geospatial information to make more informed decisions. Our objective is to facilitate coastal “decision-makers” (i.e., government agency and non-governmental organization personnel) in accessing and understanding relevant geographic information concerning sea level rise and exposure to coastal flooding.

We propose to do this through  a multi-faceted web portal that includes interactive maps, graphics, video stories and data analysis reports focused on coastal flooding and sea level rise impacts. We have already developed the initial portal and implemented several mapping/visualization tools (accessible Our existing NJADAPT site is only a starting point. We propose to further expand the capability of the site to include additional ways to communicate the scope of the hazards we face and possible adaptation solutions.


Category of the action

Communicating Coastal Risk and Resiliency

What actions do you propose?

In assessing the risks posed by sea level rise in combination with storm-related flooding, we have adopted the following general framework:

       Flooding Risk = Hazard x Exposure x Vulnerability

1st step: Model hazards                                                                          2nd step: Map resulting exposure                                                            3rd step:  Assess vulnerability                                                                   4th step: Assess Municipal planning and Preparedness                         5th step: Implement adaptation plans

As part of Steps 1, 2 & 3, we have developed several WebGIS tools to visualize a community's exposure to various coastal hazards and potential vulnerability. The NJ is a user-friendly visualization tool to investigate flooding hazards and sea level rise.  NJADAPTwww.njadpt.orgprovides municipal-based profiles and 'map packs.' The tools feed into to support Step 4 of municipal planning and preparedness assessment. To further aid this process, we have developed an online self-assessment process, called Getting to Resilience. Through this assessment local communities find out how their preparedness can be worth valuable points through FEMA’s Community Rating System and Sustainable Jersey. Also the outputs provided at the completion of the questionnaire can strengthen local/county all-hazards and emergency operations plans.

We propose to enhance our existing suite of tools and web portal to communicate to a broader range of coastal decision-makers but also the public at large.

The broader goal is to empower local municipalities to fully grasp the scope of their exposure to underline the reality that both physical and social actions are needed to make their communities more resilient. These Web-based tools are complemented with one-on-one interactions with communities as to what types of physical and social actions are feasible. The physical actions vary geographically across space and include everything from flood-proofing, elevating, relocation, property buy-outs or other adaptation options. We propose to expand our web--based tools to provide greater decision-support to aid communities in determining which resiliency actions make the most sense for their unique situation.

Who will take these actions?

Researchers from the Rutgers University Climate Institute are collaborating with the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve Coastal Training Program to examine how geospatial decision-making tools can be developed and implemented to promote coastal resilience in the face of sea level rise and extreme storm events.

Our target audience includes federal, state, county and local agencies.   Federal agencies include groups such as the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE), FEMA and NOAA.   State agencies include NJ DEP Coastal Engineering, Bureau of Dam Safety and Flood Control, and Coastal Management Office.  County and local entities include county and municipal planning and engineering departments, local construction officials, local floodplain managers, private engineer firms and emergency management professionals. 

These coastal decision-makers are responsible for implementing the on-the-ground resiliency and adaptation plans.

What are other key benefits?

We undertook this project to inform state and local resiliency planning efforts across the state of New Jersey’s extensive coastal zone.

As our  NJADAPT tools show, New Jersey has a tremendous amount of infrastructure and a large vulnerable population exposed to coastal flooding. These tools help answer the question as to what areas of our coastal zone are most exposed and should be factored into deliberations concerning rebuilding, redesigning/redeveloping or buyouts and planned retreat in New Jersey’s coastal zone. 

These tools also serve to present a detailed visualization of how sea level rise may affect salt marsh and to identify which areas may be most vulnerable to conversion and loss. In particular, we are interested in identifying marsh retreat zones to inform land use and conservation planning efforts. For New Jersey to proactively sustain its coastal salt marshes in the face of sea level rise, the preservation of future marsh landward retreat zones is critical.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The proposed enhancement of the NJADAPT web portal will cost upwards for $50,000 to support the customized programming, software licensing and cloud server charges.  The enhancement includes enhanced municipal exposure/vulnerability profiles' with accompanying tabular and graphic information.

Time line

The proposed NJADAPT application enhancement will be carried out over the next year.

The implementation phase for the individual municipalities in terms of their Post-Sandy recovery will be over the next 5-15 years. Longer term response to sea level rise will take place in the medium term as municipalities start to face the realities of sea level rise and realize that the 'business as usual' fixes are inadequate.

Related proposals


Lathrop, R., L. Auermuller, J. Trimble, and J. Bognar. 2014. The Application of WebGIS Tools for Visualizing Coastal Flooding Vulnerability and Planning for Resiliency: The New Jersey Experience. ISPRS Int J of Geo-Information 3:408-429.