NOAA's Numbers: A Data Deep Dive with Veteran Coastal Hazards Specialist, Doug Marcy | NextGen Waterfronts
Data, data, data. It's all about data these days.
On this special rerun, late host Dan Martin welcomes Doug Marcy, Coastal Hazards Specialist at NOAA's Office for Coastal Management. Dan and Doug discuss the amazing work that NOAA and other federal agencies do to gather data and develop tools to make the data usable for the private sector and NGOs. Its a great show!
Dan Martin 0:00
Hi there. This is Dan Martin vmfa for next generation waterfronts, an ASPN podcast, I have a great guest today, Doug Marcy. Doug is from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, or also known as NOAA, one of the few federal agencies we can actually pronounce. And doug if if you want to take a minute to introduce yourself, and, you know, while What, what, what do you do at NOAA, what Noah does, and and what you'd like to talk about today?
Doug Marcy 0:35
Okay. Sure. Thank you, Dan. Thanks for having me on today. Yeah, I am Doug Marcy. Again, with NOAA. NOAA, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration is a pretty diverse agency. There's a lot of different parts of NOAA, we do a lot of different things. You may be familiar with parts of NOAA that do hurricane forecasting or weather forecasts. And that's the National Weather Service. There's already a part of NOAA another part that does fisheries management, Fishery Service, there's parts to do the satellites. And we are actually part of my office as part of the national ocean service. And with the Office for coastal management. acronym is ocm. And we're basically the nation's coastal Management Agency. we oversee the national Coastal Zone Management Program, National Estuarine Research reserves, the NOAA coral reef conservation program and program called Digital coast, which I'll touch on a lot today with you. I've been with NOAA for about going on almost 18 years now. And I'm a coastal hazard specialist. I focus on coastal hazard issues, any type of inundation and flooding, specifically coastal flooding, and sea level rise. And we also specialize in geographic information systems, and data that support doing mapping of coastal flooding that communities can use. So And with that, I think we're gonna get into today some discussion about some of our some of our foundational data sets that are used to determine coastal flood risk around the country. And I look forward to talking more about that, and some of the tools and data that that we provide to the public.
Dan Martin 2:35
And and For my part, our conversation is is almost a third in a series. And the first conversation I had this sort of provoked a few issues in my mind, on next gen waterfront that I believe is still available there is with my former colleague, another firm, Greg quarry. And that conversation was about why are still still people still getting 30 year mortgages in Florida. And that seems like a silly question in a lot of ways. Because if you look at Florida today, it looks fine. And if you're a skeptic, you might think well, we won't be a problem 30 years either. But I got a few answers on to that conversation with Greg, you're kind of fascinating. One was that the reason why people are still getting 30 mortgages in Florida is that is that the mortgage may run for 30 years, but on average mortgages and Florida run about five years. So nobody really expects that they're putting up a third a 30 year risk when they sign somebody up for mortgage. In fact, what they're expecting is that within a small number of years, it'll it'll in the mortgage will be paid off, the deal will be done. And 30 years just a convenient time to to amortize property value over. So it was kind of an interesting twist to me to realize that the reason why so much is still going on and and it's not just Florida in a lot of flood prone or other areas that you might sort of scratch your head and say, Hey, wait, wait, isn't this gonna be inundated or we're gonna have progress here in the future? The reason is, is that the market is okay with it, because for the most part, everyone involved in the market has short term objectives. The second story that the second part podcasts that I did was another one about a month I'm going to say a month ago now with Mary login of heitman financial and she has, if I recall something like 24 billion under management, and properties, and she is using models to look at the risk associated with those properties based on climate risk. And, and so that seemed kind of sensible because they have a much longer, longer term holding period. They're not looking forward to five years of ownership, they might be looking for, you know, life of property ownership, and then thinking about, you know, getting out in five years. As a result, they want to know that their value is going to be there. For a long time, so Mary is now I think, looking at some of her properties and maybe unloading them and looking at new properties as they come in for risk. So that brings me to you, because I felt Wow, what are what are the tools that NOAA has that are open to the public and or generally available somehow? Who's using them to figure out what sort of risks might come with coastal development? And? And how? And how can how can people who are listening to this podcast access some of them? To get a sense of some of what's expected to happen to their properties? How can they get that dynamic flow to and without, I'm gonna shut up and let you talk.
Doug Marcy 5:44
Okay, yeah. The there are more and more people. And communities, coastal communities, especially, that are becoming aware of the things are changing. They've seen it, they're changing, it's changing in their lifetime, they're starting to see high tides come up farther than they used to, we're starting to see seems like these storms we're having are affecting things worse than they did back in, let's say, the 60s or so. And, and I think people are getting more aware, that are moving to the coast, they're becoming more educated that, Hey, there, I want to know what the flood risk is. If I before I buy a property, like like you're mentioning for a 30 year mortgage, and granted, you're probably right, most people don't stay in a house that long. But you know, and there's different laws out there about what, you know, what information the homeowner has to disclose in terms of the flood risk, and not always, not always 100% transparent. So there people are asking more and more, you know, I want to be able to understand my risk. And so where are they going for that information? They, one of the there's a lot of fundamental data sets that have to be collected and used to determine what's safe, what risk the current flood risk not just in the future for what's going on now. But then looking at projections of what what's going to happen in the future. And some of those data sets, you know, provided some by NOAA, some by other agencies within the federal government, some of the states are doing the same thing they're bringing, there's some critical datasets that are being used. For instance, a lot of the Coastal Zone Management programs in the states there's there's 34 of them, that are federally funded, improved programs, and they collect data about their erosion rates, long term erosion rates to try to govern things like sea setback lines, where they try to regulate development and kind of promote like a retreat policy, if structures get damaged, they can potentially move back when they redid redevelop so that they can get out of that that erosion zone. But some of the key data sets that the know I can speak to provide are, you really have to know what the elevation of the land is along the coast to be able to accurately depict what the flood impact is going to be. So it may sound silly, well, I should be able to know what the elevation of the land is. But you have to use what's called geodetic control. And there's a part of NOAA actually in the ocean service called the National Geodetic Survey. They've been around for 200 years. Mapping initially, they did the mapping of the coasts back 200 years ago under Thomas Jefferson, the coastal Geodetic Survey, it was back then mapping the coast. And we started putting in what we call monuments or benchmarks to into the earth little round discs that say, okay, on this, this spot is a certain elevation. And then over time, we've tied together this whole network across the country called the National spatial reference system. And that's kind of a framework data set we have to rely on to tie into to figure out what building heights need to be and what flood elevations base flood elevations need to be and constantly improving that network. Matter of fact, they're working on a new datum coming out soon that will be more based on actual gravity measurements. What we try to do is simulate what, what how water is going to flow. When you put a drop of water on the ground. Try to simulate that in the model. So we can what's called an equal potential surface, you want to get that as accurate as possible. So gravitational data goes into that. These benchmarks are used and then that enables us to figure out at a certain spot on the ground, what is the elevation. If we know that then we can do water level projections on top of that. Another part of NOAA does water level monitoring the Center for operational oceanographic products and services co Ops, we call them are tides and water level folks, you can go Google tides and water levels. And that'll come up, they maintain the national water level observation network. And these are tide gauges around the country that monitor water levels on our coast over time, so that we can develop what are called title datums. You may have heard things like mean higher high water or mean lower low water. The reason we have to do that is for navigation. That's our mandate. So we have to put on a NOAA nautical chart, you may be familiar with some of the nautical charts if you're a boater the lowest possible water elevation in there so that ships don't run aground.
Dan Martin 10:47
Let me stop there for a second to two things before we leave the monument example that you ever given and the detail. The The reason we want to know how high the land is at a monument is, is I would imagine, in part to know when subsistence is happening to know the value of that data point anyhow. But But also, it also helps tell you where you know, where the water water the drop down that monument is going to go? And how how deep it can go based on what you project? It could be? Is that a way to put it? Or is there another way to talk about how will the monument work?
Doug Marcy 11:27
So this this network of benchmarks, again, it kind of ties into a whole framework of them. What that does is when we're collecting information about the elevation of the land used to be we use survey survey instruments to do that a rotten level survey, or we used to actually use aerial photography and do 3d stereo pairs. But now we're using technology that's collected collecting elevation data from what's called remote sensing, which is an example of that is something called LIDAR light detection and raging. It's a technology where there's a laser installed on the bottom of an aircraft, and it basically sends a laser pulse down to the ground, and it measures the return pulse, the amount of light that comes back to the sensor. And then we can figure out based on the wavelength of the light and the speed of light and everything, we can figure out the elevation, and we know where the plane is because of GPS, we can figure out that elevation, then we tie that in elevation, because that's based on satellite information, we have to tie that back to the ground surface. So we have ground control points that basically tie that elevation to what we know is going on on the ground. And then we can develop what's called a digital elevation model or DTM of the ground surface. And that is the fundamental data set we use to do flood mapping. So we if we have a model, if you will have the ground surface that we know is tied in and the nose accurate. When we project water levels, on top of that, we can essentially subtract the two surfaces and come up with what is the area that's going to flood and the depths of what's gonna flood. And so that's tied into known elevations that you can then go back and say, okay, for this flood map, for instance, and FEMA puts out National Flood Insurance Program, flood insurance rate maps will have an area on there that shows this is the 1% chance or the 100 year flood, and here's the base flood elevation. And it'll be a number like 11 feet or something like that. And so we know what that 11 is because we know what the ground elevation is, we know what the water height is. And that ties into people's the first floor elevation of their home, are they above or below that base flood elevation, based on their elevation certificate, and they can figure out the insurance rates based on that. And then new development can make sure they're above the base flood elevation. So they get the lower insurance premiums. And that's suppose the idea is that actually makes them more resilient to future flooding, because they're, they're elevating their, their building, and they're making the lower floor or, you know, underneath that structure, be able to have breakaway walls, so they won't be impacted so much by flooding, and also get the utilities up higher. So your air conditioning unit and things don't get don't get flooded out with salt water. So that's all part of that. All that goes back to is making sure you get the right the right data there at the elevations and then the water levels as I was mentioning before, that's in a title datum. So you have to have transformation software. We'll get down to the details to be able to go back and forth between what's the title datum because tides and sea level rise that's all happening locally. There's a lot of Yes, there's global sea level rise, but relative sea level rise is happening that's due to things like you mentioned subsidence is going on. So those benchmarks we talked about, those can be used to determine how fast the land is actually sinking. You have to factor that in to help and to sea level sea levels going up. Yeah, land sinking too. So we have to factor that in for sea level projections. And that's all done locally as well. So going back and forth between these datums we have software that enables folks like myself, and other folks that work on this problem with GIS able to convert back and forth and do it correctly so that we show the impacts and that we have certainty, more certainty on the impacts.
Dan Martin 15:26
Now, the the data sets that people could access I have down here, HTTPS, the usual colon, forward slash forward slash, tides and currents.noaa.gov backslash again, forward slash I'm sorry, you I think, gave another website to show
Doug Marcy 15:49
that Yep, the tides and currents. That's, that's are the folks that do all of the water level monitoring, but also there's a ton of information on their site, they they provide all of the sea level trend information. So if you, even if you just Google sea level trends, you can get all of the areas where we have greater than 30 years of tide data. We do sea level projections, not projections, sea level what's happened in the past the trend, and that is that takes into account subsidence as well. The other datasets, I was talking about elevation data we provide on digital coast. And if you go to its coast, coast, CLA st.noaa.gov. That's our office homepage. And you can find it from there. It's there's a link on there for digital coast. We also provide a lot of data of not only elevation data from that LIDAR I was mentioning before. We host a lot of elevation data, particularly through other agencies like the Corps of Engineers, through some partnerships, and we work internet, we work with a lot of agencies on something called a three dimensional elevation program, three DEP that's led by the USGS, but we're a partnership with a lot of agencies. And we coordinate the collection of elevation data so that we don't duplicate effort. And we we put out using federal funding, we partner with local, like communities and counties or states to four areas where there, there's a need for new data. So that's all done through that coordination. So we have that data on there, we have land cover data, we provide the coastal equivalent of the national land cover data set, called sea cap, it's coastal change analysis program, and that looks at land cover over time. So you can compare, let's say 10 years ago to now and see how the land cover has actually changed how much has been developed. Land covers land covers a it sounds like a term of art.
Dan Martin 17:59
What does land cover mean?
Doug Marcy 18:00
land cover, there's 16 different classes, it's just basically what is literally what is covering the land. So it uses imagery. And the product is in a 30 meter resolution, but we're actually working on higher resolution versions now down to like five meters. But it basically says okay, for that little spot on the land, what, what is covering it? So it's like either vegetation, what if it's vegetation, what type? Is it like shrub? Is it? Is it emergent, palustre and wetland? Or is it you know, is it open water? And then you will have as in freshwater or as a salt water is wetland? Is it upland forest? Or is it let's say grassland or is it high density development or medium density development? So it gives you an idea of what is occupying that particular spot. And that can it's very important data set because you can use it for determining impervious surface.
Dan Martin 18:59
Yeah, I can see that.
Doug Marcy 19:01
yeah, so we are running hydrology models to figure out how much rainfall and runoff is going to occur in a watershed. You got to know what your land cover is what so that you can figure out the amount of water that's going to come off that?
Dan Martin 19:16
Well, no word said we can also project more areas that are more vulnerable to erosion as well. One thing that one thing that really intrigued me back, going back a couple of paragraphs was your point about about the properties that are on the coast themselves. And if the coastline changes, then they may have to be moved back. I'm actually familiar with a number of properties on the Carolinas that have had to be taken down because given the size of their lot, there was just no way you know, with the setback requirements on all sides, that they could be rebuilt unless it was to be rebuilt. There's one room 15 storeys tall, or maybe there's a fireball in the middle. So that would that would be kind of a critical thing for people, I think to be able to get a sense as to how far back because I think it's human nature to want to get as close as possible to the water. But if you have, you know, data that says, hey, you know, if it's a 65 foot setback, you might want to go with 85 feet simply because over time, that setback is gonna is gonna disappear into the water. is is is that a particular Goodwood data set? Would you recommend somebody will look at to have that kind of assurance, and also may say something about what the depth of lots might need to be? Because if people want to rebuild, or they've got to go further back? Yeah, that's
Doug Marcy 20:43
a good point. And through most of the, through the Coastal Zone Management programs, I mentioned that before, there's there's 34 states that are that are approved, programs, they a lot of them, and now they're all different, because, you know, each state kind of has does their own thing. But a lot of them do have a setback. requirement, and they calculated a kind of a couple different ways, I can give you a couple of examples, you mentioned North Carolina, so I can talk about that one. So what they would do is they'd have, they'd be able to figure out what the long term erosion rate is at different points along the coast. And they actually use the same kind of method, they have these monuments, and then they, they can do that, or they use the vegetation line and they can come up over time and and see how much the shoreline has, has eroded. And then they can compute a long term origine rate, let's say it's 10 feet a year or something like that, then what they will do is say, Okay, let's let's multiply that times the, I think in North Carolina is 40 years in South Carolina's 30 years. And I think that's got to do with the mortgage thing, you were talking about 30 or 40 years. And then they they multiply that and they soak it, that's how far back you have to set back from the what they call the baseline, which is usually like the front primary Dune or the vegetation line. And what that's doing is buying you buffer really for, you know, the idea is you want to have a good Dune system, and natural dunes and sand system in front of you to protect you from storms. And if you're built right up onto the beach, you know, you're gonna you're not going to benefit from that protection. So if you're setting back, the point is you have all that property to potentially help you, you know, protect against storms. And the idea is if you do get damaged beyond a certain percentage, and it depends by the state, but sometimes it's 50% or 66, and two thirds percent damage, then you have to remove that and build back farther. Now there are other there's been issues with, you know, takings lawsuits and their special permits that can be applied for and things like that. So there's always a special case. But the whole point is to try to regulate so that when we building when we're building that we're kind of migrating with the erosion. A lot of times though, what happens is you have these erosion hotspots, it's not the same everywhere along a beach, one part of the beach because the typical worst places are near these endless coastal inlets where water, the tidal waters going back and exchanging with the ocean, going into the back,
Dan Martin 23:29
confirming confirming that point doug, the particular properties I was thinking of in North Carolina, are quite near the opening into an inlet into an estuary and and you're right those those are the areas that I would guess there are so many factors in play that it might be really hard to predict what the future will be there it is.
Doug Marcy 23:49
If you study coastal geology, you look at the inlets, the dynamics of endless, very dynamic change every year, every storm event can really change the system. And what you know, some areas that used to be stable shoreline, the next year will be have high erosion rates. And that's because these sandbars Come on shore and they predict for a while, and then they got to go away. And if you ever look at, like time lapse, there's a great site that Google has, I think it's called the Google Earth Engine and does a time lapse of Landsat imagery. Going back to the 80s. And if you zoom in on some of the barrier islands, you can really see these these bars come weld themselves to the to the island and then they go away and it's just really a dynamic moving system. That's just it's really neat to see. kind of gives you a perspective, why are these areas so you know, dangerous, risky to develop because they are they really are changing?
Dan Martin 24:54
Well in the changes that are wrought over time. Come with them some interest writes in cases, for example, one of my former clients owns a lot of property at the north end of Padre Island, where There once was a past that went through all the way to Corpus Christi Bay and north of that past was called Mustang. And in and in over time, it didn't go all the way through it got filled in on the on the corporate trustee Bay side, well, somehow they ended up getting the rights to reestablish that pass it you know, as if that pass always had a right to be there as if the pass always would be there. And they'd rented it out. And it was a huge advantage for, for the particular site to do that. But in a way it was, you know, that the existence of their past was just a moment in time. And yeah, when when something like that happens, our legal system establishes rights for pretty much anything. That's a moment in town.
Doug Marcy 26:00
Yes, actually, that's, that's very true. Because when we do parcel mapping, for instance, you know, we go out and say, Okay, this is your land, and you have your parcel and you get your plat, you know, print it out and it gets put into the, into the tax office. Yeah, it's pretty much a concrete line. Although, you know, on paper, that's just a coordinates of where your land is and then, but mother nature does what they want what she wants at the coast, we had the same issue. Good. Another example, closer to where I'm from our offices in Charleston, South Carolina, and just south of Charleston is a island called Kiawah Island and then the island to the south of that is Seabrook Island, there's a small inlet called Captain sands inlet. And that inlet is very dynamic, and it has continuously migrate south so that the Kiawah Island is accreting and then it's impacting the north side of Seabrook. And so, every so often they go back and neck cut through and reestablish where the inlet used to be. To try to reduce some of the erosion it's like we're kind of trying to fight against Mother Nature. And there's properties that go into what you were just talking about, there's properties that people still own that are underwater and some of these news inlet areas I think that's true up in North Carolina, they're eventually someday when they when the sand comes back they theoretically have claimed that property it's definitely an interesting kind of clash between you know, nature versus what we want to try to keep as a stakes in the sand so to speak.
Dan Martin 27:42
Well, it's been around for generations because I grew up in Boston and there the Boston Globe used to have on Sundays and in the separate comic section back when there wasn't a separate color comic section there would have always some ad for buy this land in Florida and in you know, somebody reading the paper would always joke to 2 million or something like yeah, like it's underwater or something well, that notion of planning underwater or our guess you know, just just landed is at times underwater at times not underwater has has really been around for a few generations that and apparently they had some some buyers of properties like that over time too and and now now you're the only piece of chi Kyo walk Island kalea it's the only if it's a sea only piece you can afford and get them that's when you get and you hope your grandchildren get to use it. Because by then maybe it'll have surfaced again. The but I actually would I try to do that direction at all. The actually if we could if we could resume your thoughts on different types of of NOAA data sets that we get access to if we have something you mentioned the national Geodetic Survey aerial data and and that is on is that sporadically online or I have a note here that it was online after Dorian so that you can see we're we're we're there the results of Dorian what what we're doing right. What what what is what is that is it what is that that website and is it always there
Doug Marcy 29:25
it is. It's the national Geodetic Survey NGS NOAA NGS and they actually we have an agreement with through with FEMA so that they provide so what we have called a pre scripted mission assignment. So after an event like Dorian or a major hurricane or storm or even flooding event, no it gets tasked to go fly and take aerial photography. This geo rectified of the coast coastline that's impacted and that is available through his posts. Disaster imagery is available through NOAA NGS just ngs.noaa.gov. And you can access that it's really good. It's useful for doing post storm damage assessments, looking at things potentially for high, high watermarks? And how high did the water get? So you can see debris lines and areas where you can concentrate on going out and doing a damage assessment. It's a good way to from the air using remote sensing, you don't actually have to get out there on the ground and assess you can kind of do a triage, if you will. And I think that's why FEMA likes to do that. Where do we need to go send our resources and folks First, the worst hit area
Dan Martin 30:43
concentrates on so that's a decision tool for them. But it's a it's a long term tool for anyone that lives there or wants to buy them.
Doug Marcy 30:51
Absolutely, yeah, and it gets up online pretty quick. And it's geo rectified, people can go in and look and see if their home has been impacted. In some cases before they can actually even get onto the island of se. But it's also a way to, you know, to initially see what what the damage is. And if there are things like we were just talking about new coastal inlets to get cut through happens a lot on barrier island, especially the Outer Banks, you'll have the hurricane surge, that when the water is actually returning back from the estuary back out to the ocean, sometimes it blows these inlets, new inlets. Sometimes they close them, sometimes they leave them open, but that you can get an assessment looking at the photography, where these areas are. And then another data set that that gets used a lot is do a pre if there happened to be a elevation data set that was done. This is a good example is Hurricane Sandy. after Sandy, there's a lot of times after the major disasters, there'll be what's called a supplemental and the government will the President will ask for supplemental funding, Congress will approve that. I guess just recently, we got supplemental funding for hurricane Maria and Irma. Sandy was the same way. So there was supplemental money. And a lot of some of that went to USGS and NOAA to collect elevation data, LIDAR, after the storm. So we could do a pre storm elevation data set and a post storm dead zone, you can basically subtract the two and see where we lost volume of sand and how the barrier islands have changed. And then how ultimately, elevations have changed. And that affects tools like our mapping tool, their sea level rise, we have a sea level rise viewer, again, we're using the best available elevation data set, we can and then we're using projected sea level information and showing people what could potentially be inundated up to 10 feet above kind of average high tides, we would go back and update our elevation data and remap based on the the newer data because if the coastline has changed, that's going to impact you know, the area that could potentially
Dan Martin 33:10
be flooded. So, and the beauty of Sandy too, is that not the beauty of it. But the the beauty of have data from Sandy is that that hit primarily a whole different part of the coast, you know, up toward the Northeast, as well as, as the southern. Now back, if I could circle back to your points about monuments and establishing land elevation and such. On on those data points. Do you do essentially do the whole coastline? At least the eastern coastline from you know, the Canadian border down around the Gulf with without? Or is is is that something that it's a little bit like triage only focus on the areas that tend to have the greatest amount of change?
Doug Marcy 33:58
Well, the National spatial reference system as a, as I mentioned, is a net network around the country of these benchmarks. A lot of times I'll go to
Dan Martin 34:07
England as well.
Doug Marcy 34:08
Oh, yeah, yeah. So it's everywhere you go. There's, there's this tied in. So every state would have a geodetic advisor and a state level agenda person and their respective responsible for maintaining their own geodetic network and that ties in because of the standards we have in place for a monument to be set for certain accuracies that can be tied in now for for the title stuff. We the the title data, gauges, we have the N long stations, there's over 200 plus stations around the coast, around the West Coast, those have specific benchmarks that tie into the sort of terrestrial network that kind of ties to coastal datums to the to the what's called an ortho metric datum. So around the gauges, there'll be a series of benchmarks. So we maintain those, but there's definitely a network of partnership with state advisors and these these networks that tie into this entire system. Now, that said, I mentioned we're trying to modernize that system. And so we'll eventually be going away from these individual locations with these discs that get tied into more of a gravity based model called gravity. And that's going to be more dynamic because we're actually now using the the beauty of it is we're using better technology, we're using GPS technology in what's called continuously operating reference stations that monitor the location and Pacific specific location over time. And so we can tell, even to the degree of how fast the plates are moving the North American plate versus the Pacific plate and how that will change. Not only our horizontal datum, but eventually our vertical datum too. So you know, you'll know when a new mountain range is born. That's right, well, someday.
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Dan Martin 36:58
Well, you know, it is a fluid situation too. So I wonder if you is there that kind of is that that kind of you know, data collection on the ocean bottom as well. I mean, how do we it? Because Because I would guess knowing the shape of the of the water are of the underwater surface all the way under the water. Knowing that shape would help us project what sort of forces hydrologically would drive storms or drive things in different directions is, is that? Is that something that NOAA does too? I mean, do you map the the Atlantic or the Gulf?
Doug Marcy 37:38
We map? Yes, actually, the the national ocean service has another component, another guest will be a sister office called the office co survey. And you probably familiar with seeing the the white NOAA ships with the NOAA logo on there, they they go out and we have several survey vessels that actually go out and collect with symmetry. And that gets transferred to the nautical chart. So the it's all part of that coast and Geodetic Survey I was mentioned 200 years ago and Jefferson started mapping the coasts we have a mandate to keep the nautical charts updated. So we're constantly collecting bathymetric information and putting it on the charts. And that data actually,
Dan Martin 38:24
that's a new word. It's a good one bathymetric is that like bathysphere? The kind of submarine that goes underwater?
Doug Marcy 38:30
Yes. Yep. But image symmetry is the is the underwater equivalent of topography. If you study back,
Dan Martin 38:37
I have not so bathymetry is the underwater equivalent of
Doug Marcy 38:42
Topography. And photography is graphic data is basically the elevation of the land surface. But symmetry is basically the elevation of the of the sub aerial or the underwater. And that can be applied not just to Marine, but also lakes too.
Dan Martin 39:03
I'm glad you said that. Let me come back to that in a second. But the but the whole, but I would guess that, you know, your fisheries units are also studying, you know, using that data bathymetric data, got to use the word to to actually understand where fish populations might be able to migrate to over time. Because you'd have to have a certain depth for those fish to live in. We get some populations. So let's that's kind of cool. Now back to the when I said when you when you mentioned the word like the thing that got my attention was thirdly was we call ourselves a third coast. I know the Gulf does too. But up here in the Midwest, very often we hear the term third coast with the five Great Lakes. How much how much documentation do you collect on the Great Lakes and I am let me preface that by saying I'm asking because Lake Michigan has hit some record highs and and we are actually There have been some erosion where a number of houses along the lake have have fallen into Lake Michigan as a result of eroding bluffs along the lake. And we've already had a lot of, frankly, a lot of beaches disappear, simply because the water level is up. Is that something that is also attractive? Because it's not quite as dramatic as as a hurricane issue? or something along the Carolinas, Georgia or, or other coastlines, Virginia and Maryland. But but for us up here, it's it's kind of cataclysmic when when we lose our beach,
Doug Marcy 40:36
absolutely. Yeah, it's just as much of an issue on the Great Lakes. And by the way, yes, the great lakes are part of the Coastal Zone Management Program. So the states along the great lakes are, are, are part of those Coastal Zone Management Program. So yes, we have we actually have offices up there, and folks working on the issue. NOAA does provide bathymetry information for the Great Lakes, some of is, is fairly old, we don't do as much we don't have as many ship resources there. But we rely on partner agencies for places that are critical, like the Corps of Engineers does surveying of all their all the navigation channels, for instance. And when they do that they're changing or doing a dredging project that give us the send that data to know where we put that on the nautical charts. So but we also monitor the water levels over time, we have a great lakes Environmental Research Lab called Global up there in Michigan, and they have a group that has studied the long term average water levels of the Great Lakes over time, each lake. there's a there's a great website, they have a water level dashboard, you can go look up, look up Great Lakes water level dashboard. And you can see all of the lakes and how they've changed their elevation
Dan Martin 41:57
of the water level over time, and they have some climatology stuff in there, too. And I know Rubinstein was gonna say, I think there were some interesting trends to where, right now there's a question as to whether like Michigan and urine might actually back flood into Lake Superior. Because the water levels, which you know, are the result of a lot of things, you know, I guess, evaporation, reverses inflow. And we've had a lot of a lot of rainwater inflow into the Great Lakes in the last year or two, are at least into these great lakes of Michigan and Huron, so that will, but I don't think of him as much affecting Lake Superior. So we may actually have backflow, where we hadn't in the past,
Doug Marcy 42:36
I hadn't heard of that I do know that Michigan and Huron are, are kind of considered one leg, because they there, there really isn't a barrier between them. So they've kind of maintained the same level. But I do know, all the lakes are high right now, we actually built back in 2014, we got some money through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, to build what's called a lake level viewer. You can just Google that, but it's just coast that noaa.gov slash llv for Lake level viewer. And we spent a lot of time collecting the best available topography, and bathymetry. In this case, we're mapping not only what happens if lake levels are high, which they are right now, but when we actually develop this tool, it was there were record lows back in like 2013. So we mapped plus six and minus six feet, above and below the long term, average Lake level. So the user can go in and see what is plus six feet look like. And we actually have the current water level on there we're getting from the global folks. So you can see what current water level is. And you compare that and see what the current status we have some, a few data gaps here and there, because it's relying on I mentioned LIDAR earlier, there's a LIDAR technology that allows us to try to see through the water down to the ocean, or lake bottom. If the water is clear enough, we can shoot a laser down and get the elevation of the land underwater. And that can be used to build what we call a digital elevation model, a seamless model topo, we call that a topo bathy combined model. And that allows you that allows you to see during low levels of low lake levels, what land is going to emerge. And this gets back to the finish. If you had property there, maybe now it's exposed and you can build on it. But maybe you don't want to because two years later, it could be underwater again,
Dan Martin 44:39
that that's actually happened up here. In a lot of cases, there are lands that appear and disappear. And there are some terrific Indian myths associated with it. And and I do you know, as far as you know, if you were a Native American living here several 100 years ago, you'd have to make sense of the world around you in so many different ways. And And when you see something pop up on the lake, it's like, Huh, there's got to be a story behind that. So you got to get it, you got to come up with one. I also wanted to bring up the Great Lakes simply because I think and when you said plus minus six feet, I think a lot of folks along the, you know, I'll say the eastern seaboard, the Atlantic coast, and the Gulf and the Pacific Coast, might think of, of these, the Great Lakes is, you know, just giant puddles of freshwater. And oh, we'd like to get access to if we could, I know Arizona would, then the reality is, is that there is a fair amount of fluctuation for these lakes as well. And it can have a lot of local ramifications. Absolutely. It isn't, it isn't, as you know, I mean, it is severe sometimes, but it isn't as severe as is what we're talking about. Well, the
Doug Marcy 45:51
there's probably a limit to how high the water levels can get. But yeah, one thing that's uncertain, obviously, the lakes are. And I learned a lot about the Great Lakes on this particular project. I'm not from that region. And I hadn't studied the dynamics of them. But I did learn that you also have impacts from storm events, they have what's called a space station effect.
Dan Martin 46:14
That's right. Yeah, it's listening to like version of a tsunami is the station.
Doug Marcy 46:18
Yep. And like, specifically, Lake Erie is probably the most vulnerable because of the the winter storms come through. And with a long fetch, it piles of water up on the northeast side of the lake, and I can get six to eight feet of water. So that it is very dynamic. But what's going to happen with climate change is it's still pretty uncertain with a Great Lakes they don't they don't the climate models don't seem to be giving us a signal whether they're going to continue to rise or fall with with increased climate, because what you increase heat will cause more evapotranspiration, which would mean lower water levels, but then you may have more precipitation snowpack, which would raise the water level. So I guess it's back and forth, trying to figure out what's going to happen is still perplexing scientists. So
Dan Martin 47:06
is that but but one thing that would mitigate too much rice and Lake Michigan principally is that the is that that watershed for like Michigan actually doesn't go that far inland. In fact, in the city of Chicago, though, you don't have to go that far to the west Far West Side, and you're almost, you're almost in the Mississippi watershed at that point. So you're gonna have so much of the phenomenal weather we had extreme weather we had over the summer, further in the Midwest, or further west in the Midwest, did not directly impact us because that was that was meant for the Mississippi and therefore, it impacted New Orleans and Louisiana, in general, and Mississippi,
Doug Marcy 47:52
that had a big impact on the hurricane season, because the I think it was very tropical storm berry or turnout out to be hurricane Barry was there was a real issue because very late in the season, the Mississippi was in flood stage. Usually, by the time you have hurricanes, it's usually starting to subside, but they were dealing with the possibility of the levees in New Orleans breaching because of the high water levels in the Mississippi. In addition to the surge coming up the Mississippi River, the storm surge can travel up the Mississippi as far as Baton Rouge and beyond. So we actually have models, the weather service has models that try to take the storm surge predictions, and then they put that into a river model and try to project how's that surge going to impact the flow coming down and how that's going to impact the water level. So we combine all that. So anyway, that's what we're we're getting projections potentially, right up to the height of the levees. It didn't turn out as bad as they had predicted. But the possibility was there. Let's let's just say that what people were nervous
Dan Martin 49:03
at interaction, that interaction of an estuary and a river or is is is seen every day in in the Hudson, for example, my meetings at West Point and I've watched the tide push blocks of ice and the winter up river, contrary to you know, what should be happening. So I think in and I would imagine that that kind of possible to some degree of catastrophic interaction could also happen with with the Chesapeake or with other very large estuary in areas. Yeah, I
Doug Marcy 49:41
can. Hudson's a little bit unique in that it's a very such a deep river channel that the tide signature doesn't attenuate. So it's very interesting that you go all the way up to the Albany dam. They have a four foot tidal range there, same as it is at the battery in New York. So that's great. Hi, I'm
Dan Martin 50:00
great and episode a fascinating one. Yeah,
Doug Marcy 50:02
now that shallower estuaries like the Chesapeake, it's not as pronounced, but yeah, it definitely gets impacted, the shallower it is that the tide wave will attenuate a little bit. But certainly the farther up these estuaries you go, water gets pushed up with the within, you know, depending on the wind direction, we can see really high water levels. So a good example of that was hurricane Florence and the pamlico sound, where the Neuse River comes in near New Bern, North Carolina, the winds were pushing the water right up at right up towards New Bern for such a long period of time, it just kept rising and rising, and then they had water from, from a lot of precipitation with with Florence as well. And that just caused record flooding there.
Dan Martin 50:50
Well, that that data, actually you've given me something I didn't know before there too. And that and that the the ability of of water phenomenon or ocean water phenomenon to move inland is rooted in how deeply the estuary is. And with pamlico, if I'm not mistaken, I think Elizabeth, North Carolina is own pamlico sound. And that has for for an hour, probably half a century or more than a major Coast Guard installation. And it's been that because of the depth of the water in Jericho sound, because it's good for them. But it's also good for this kind of phenomenon. One thing I did want to touch on with you also two things, actually one was was how your data is used. And I think two of the new end users I had mentioned to once was the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the other was forestry Corporation, and not so much for what their products are, though. That's interesting. And if you don't mind talking about those, that would be great. But but but I think just the idea that people downstream, if you will, are using your data sets with their own algorithms to make projections about the impacts of ocean trends and such on on land. Do Could you comment a little bit on on first First Street and new Union of Concerned Scientists because I think they circle back to our notion of risk?
Doug Marcy 52:21
Sure, absolutely. And those are not the only two, there's a lot of not only those cases, I guess your concern scientists is more of an NGO or non governmental organization, and then for street for profit. And then there's others. There's risk consulting, as a lot of these companies now that are coming online to try to provide like more personal risk assessment. And there's, there's other groups like climate Central, we've actually shared all of our elevation data with, for them to build their surging seas application so we can keep the data consistent. And then a value add. So Noah, we provide a lot of the fundamental datasets I was mentioned the elevation data, we do the sea level rise mapping, we do the projections. And then that data can be used by folks like firstrate. They have an application called flood IQ. They bring in our sea level rise data, they bring in storm surge risk information from the National Hurricane Center, and they they can try to project I think in their site, they're actually looking at potential property value. loss. I know Zillow is another agent group that's been using our data to project how many homes are going to be impacted by sea level rise in the future and what what's the doll
Dan Martin 53:44
I never would have guessed Zillow, because every month or two, I get an email from Zillow telling me how much my house was supposed to be worth I
Doug Marcy 53:54
know that really, they're doing that they've actually used our data sets. You said, your concern scientists, they've been doing some some really good studies on this, this idea of high tide flooding, which is that the high tides are starting to impact areas more and more, and when is it going to be so much that we're going to have what we call permanent inundation? And how is that going to affect you know, access to, you know, not only for businesses and but for transportation to the getting in and out of the cities and for emergency services and things like that we have our data has been used many times for other agencies to so Department of Energy. For instance, looking at the the vulnerability of nuclear installations to sea level rise, the EPA is looking at their point source pollution outfalls that that are out how many of those are going to impact Rumi interrupt you for a second to
Dan Martin 54:53
on the on the on the matter of the Department of Energy. There was some work done by a biplane Next Door earlier this year in which they projected something ridiculously high, like 20, or 25%. And that could be wrong on that. But I think it was how high of our power supply in the US is vulnerable to, to extreme weather, or to, to various storm situations, or rather to, to water to sea level rise in and I know that that has become a major issue for a lot of industries for which there's a need for continuous power, whether we're talking about a hospital or some sort of, you know, biology lab, where they need to always have power, they lose, you know, years of work. But I don't mean to interrupt you go ahead with some of the other ones.
Doug Marcy 55:44
The tools I've been mentioning, one is our sea level rise viewer, it's coast noaa.gov, slash SLR for sea level rise. A lot of our tools that we have a visualization component, which is a nice map that you can go in and interactively start to see what the impacts might be. But the key for us is we provide the data behind that. So people can go in and download the elevation data, the the inundation mapping data, we provide a lot of resources to where to go look for projection information. And then we also for GIS users provide what's called map services, so they can pull our layers into their GIS, we don't have the capacity at a national organization like no other federal agency to get really locally specific data in there, like, you know, local roads, and all of the building information and stuff can't do that nationally, it's just too hard. So a great example of this is the state of New Jersey, working with Rutgers University. And then the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research reserve, they were able to build what's called the New Jersey flood mapper. And they're using all of the data we provided in there, but then they can they can add their local datasets, they can add their flood insurance rate map information. And we actually provide the source code to our viewer to other folks too, and they can take that and, and build their own view or with their own local data, based on these national data sets. And that's a great sort of model for us. Because everybody was, initially were like, what can you put our data in there to make it more locally specific, and like, I would love to do that for you. But if I do that for you, I have to do it across the country, we just can't handle that. So we try to let people get to our data. But we also provide a lot of technical assistance on how to how to use the data, and we try to inform I'll give you an example here in Charleston, they're developing their their developers sea level rise strategy, trying to help them come up with Okay, what projection should we be using?
Dan Martin 57:42
And and how can we, how can we best use this NOAA science and at some level, they need someone to explain how the latest science can be can be brought in and used. And that I guess, could be called actionable science versus just straight up emic science. Well, before we started this podcast, you and I talked for a couple of minutes. And one of the one of the stories that I told you is I live in the neighborhood that is the highest point in Chicago, which again, you know, I think I use the probably on PC analogy of saying, you know, it's like we're saying we're the tallest dwarf because Chicago was so flat and level anyhow. But nonetheless, I live in the high in the neighborhood with the highest, highest everything and it's also the highest storm sewer system. But the problem is, is that when we had some extreme weather, the storm saw here in my neighborhood was unable to get that water out of the neighborhood. It just didn't have the capacity. So the water was a third of the way up my lawn, which made for really green lawn about two weeks later, but it's all fresh water. But the but the but the other side of it is you know if it is that I would not show up on any map has been a risky area. And in that in I mentioned to the one of my nephew's in New Orleans went through something like that, and actually it's twice now where where the storm water dispersal system or whatever is unable to get the water out of the neighborhood. And I think you had you had an angle on Charleston today that you were just starting to talk about.
Doug Marcy 59:21
Exactly, yeah, the course in Charleston is a salt water and so our grass dies. But actually, it's a combination of the two. We're seeing a Charleston obviously very flat. A lot of our east coast coastal cities are pretty flat on Boston, Norfolk you know, even even parts of DC, Miami. And so what we're starting to see as the the stormwater systems and these flat coastal cities were never designed to handle sea water coming in. They didn't take into account rising sea level So they built a stormwater system that was designed to handle a certain amount of freshwater coming in from rainfall. And they usually designed it for maybe the 25 year storm event, what we're seeing increases in extreme events. That's one of the things in the National Climate Assessment points out that the extreme events, extreme precipitation events are increasing. And a lot of parts of the country, climate change is going to be the wetter areas are going to get wetter, and the drier areas are going to get drier. That's why I like to tell people it's going to be more extreme, not just
Dan Martin 1:00:31
one way or the other to the word I'm really, really applies here, it's, you know, one gets, whatever you are, you're going to be more of that,
Doug Marcy 1:00:38
yes, for the most part for the most part. And, and so what we're seeing is what used to be handled an event that used to be handled just fine by the stormwater system and no flooding. Now, we have high tides that are, we have a foot more water in Charleston from sea level rise than we did back in the 20s. as well for the last 100 years about a foot of water. And then and then we also had more extreme rainfall. So when the when the two happened at the same time, the water can't drain. So most of the stormwater systems are based on a gravity fed system, which means you have to have some slope on it. And when when you have water in the pipes already from sea level, or high tides, and the water can drain out and it just causes a lot more flooding. So what Charleston's been doing is actually a drainage project where they're building a huge tunnel underground, 140 feet underground, they're developing a huge tunnel, and they have these drain shafts up to the surface, draining the water off of places like Market Street, and then pumping that out into the rivers using a pump station. So it's similar to what New Orleans has been doing over because they're below sea level, they have to do this every day
Dan Martin 1:01:52
they have to pump water up or rain has to go somewhere.
Doug Marcy 1:01:55
Exactly. So. So this is becoming an issue that hasn't been addressed. So when things we've been working on is try to we have a tool we developed that deals with this idea of stormwater at the coast. How do we deal with stormwater when we have rising sea levels? And so I've been working locally with the Charleston city of Charleston folks, they're updating their stormwater manual. And they're trying to figure out what projections of sea level Do we need to put in there. So that new development when it comes in, we can we can try to prevent that they're putting backflow preventers on a lot of the stormwater outfalls. that's helping. But a lot of the problem is we have older systems that are you know, collapsing their old archways, brick archways and things underneath the city that have to be retrofitted. And all of this is going to cost a lot of money. And the question is, we know that with big cities like Charles or you know, midsize cities, and the bigger cities, they have the tax base to do this. But the smaller communities you mentioned, Elizabeth City and places like that, that are smaller, they're going to be able to have the tax base and and the funding to try to try to retrofit a lot of this. That's interesting question.
Dan Martin 1:03:04
Well, this will this, this also circles back to, to the podcast with with Mary login of Heitmann last month in that in that she's trying to assess, you know, the climate impacts on properties. But one thing that she's discovering is she hasn't quite come up with the formula for how to how to vet how to pack into the value of her property, whether or not it's a city that's woke and is doing something about about that, you know, as you're describing Charleston is able to and is doing something about a Boston is another city. But the result, the natural result is going to be that there are going to be higher taxes paid by someone. So if if you own property, you're very sensitive to your property taxes and other taxes that you might pay in your property. But on the other hand, if you're paying higher taxes, because your property is now going to be safer, then it can actually if you pardon the expression, it can be a wash so that the risk is lowered. So you might be willing to pay the higher taxes. And, or you may be on on for higher risk of property owners or you might want you might be willing to go to smaller cities where they can't afford that. But we're at the same risk, but where your property values might be lower, and you can still get the rent. So there's really kind of a curious set of economic algorithms running in the background here that I think will influence a lot of where development occurs, and where their investment will incur flicker as well. Because if you're if Charleston wasn't taking this course, and I'm sure you hear this in the conversations, Charleston wasn't taking this course it would put a risk a lot of high value property and it would put a risk of tourism industry that Charleston has come to depend on for for both employment and income. So So So there, there is a kind of a challenging set of set of choices ahead for America's communities as well as for, you know, owners,
Doug Marcy 1:05:10
we have a lot of historical significant buildings in Charleston as well, that that are. There's a lot of historical Preservation Society, for instance, you know, lobby there to keep these civil war especially, you know, artifacts and Fort Sumter and all this, you know, safe and that's, there's a whole nother part of you know, that the Park Service is actually National Park Service been doing a lot of work on climate impacts to the to the national parks. There's a lot of parks that are at risk, the Liberty, Statue of Liberty sitting right in New York Harbor, and you know, those kind of things. And our national shorelines are national, sorry, shoreline parks, or whatever there that the Park Service maintains they've been doing a lot of work on that. The particular example for the one that stands out is moving the Cape Hatteras lighthouse many years ago, they, they're having to start to move things back and basically deal with it. And that's really, you know, what adaptation is all about. We're gonna have to adapt or our stuffs gonna go into water.
Dan Martin 1:06:22
And, you know, you bring in NPS which National Park Service, which is of course, a government agency also has a sister organization up. And they have things like the Cape Cod National Seashore, they have a wonderful already partially underwater facility of facilities, not the right word, I guess, property down in Biscayne Bay. And then even here, in even here in the Midwest, I was over talking to the guy that runs Indiana Dunes National like a National Park, which used to be a national lecture and is now 61st or 62nd National Park. And he was talking about the beaches situation that we referenced earlier, that correct cataclysmic situation when you lose beach, because even if you lose just a portion of it, you're losing capacity, which has been matched with parking a match with expectations from the community to how many people can come in and park on a weekend. So there's, there are a lot of human factors to consider. I think we have probably gone over time. So I I can't say how much I appreciate your conversation this morning, Doug, and Doug. Doug. Marcy is from NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He's been very, very gracious and coming on next gen waterfronts today. I'm Dan Martin, of MFA. And if, if you have any thoughts or questions, reach back to us through the American trolling Podcast Network or ESPN. Thanks very much, Doug. And Doug, Did I miss anything that you wanted to convey today?
Doug Marcy 1:08:00
No, I just want to say thanks for having me on. I've enjoyed the conversation. And and hopefully, folks can go to some of the websites we mentioned. And if not, you can just google some of the things I mentioned, where hopefully, our tools and data can be continued to be used to inform these critical decisions that are going to need to be made.
Dan Martin 1:08:20
I think, I think that's a really excellent closing note. And that is the whole point of the show is to introduce you to websites, and to data that NOAA has, so that just like other groups that we mentioned, whether it's UCC, and nonprofit or forestry Corporation, or others, that you can avail yourself of these resources and leverage them to to create the research and information that you need in your life. Whether it's whether you're a city or a town or whether you're an individual property owner. Thanks again, and have a good day.