SLAMM Helps Users 'See" Possible Climate Impacts on Sea Level

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released an Internet tool that allows the public to view simulations of sea level rise to help them understand the potential impacts of climate change on sea levels.

The Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) is a Web browser-based application that displays map pairs of the same area, each at different sea levels. The tool enables users to see the impacts in a more intuitive way.

"Sea level rise is certainly one of the most pressing issues facing many coastal communities, as well as national wildlife refuges," said Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge Manager Lou Hinds. "SLAMM will be used by many coastal refuge managers to involve the public in discussions concerning sea level rise as part of the Comprehensive Conservation Planning process. This planning process must be undertaken every 15 years and unless something changes dramatically coastal refuges will be dealing with this issue over the next 100 years," Hinds added.

SLAMM looks at sediment and organic matter accumulation on the marshes as well as erosion from tides and storms that can overtake coastal barrier beaches. It also depicts how these relationships will remain coupled as sea levels rise.

SLAMM also predicts changes in coastal wetlands and shorelines. These simulations are based on the best available science and technology. Users can select different scenarios by combining time, in 25-year intervals, at different severities, for example, 0.5 meters to 1 meter increase in sea level.

"This new Web-mapping tool can be used to educate communities on the potential effects of sea level increases," said Leopoldo Miranda, supervisor, Chesapeake Bay Field Office. "For nearly 20 years, the information provided by SLAMM was available only in table or static map form. SLAMM-View now provides this in a visually dynamic way that more organizations and individuals will be able to use."

One unique aspect of SLAMM is that the dual maps are geographically-linked: zooming or panning in one map causes an identical alteration in the other map. Regional simulations have been posted on SLAMM-View for a number of important estuaries, including Delaware Bay, coastal South Carolina, coastal Georgia, Puget Sound, and Chesapeake Bay. As data becomes available, more map layers and simulations will be made available to the public, including site-specific SLAMM simulations for Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The Viewer shows 45 possible fine-scale combinations of sea level rise scenarios with over a dozen contextual layers.