San Francisco Bay Area Sentinel Site Cooperative
- Visit the San Francisco Bay Area SSC Web Page
- Overview: The San Francisco Bay Area Sentinel Site Cooperative capitalizes on a four-year effort of Bay Area NOAA programs to coordinate climate change efforts and address resource management challenges. With its mix of natural resources and its population and economic centers (over seven million people and seven ports), the Bay and outer coast provide an ideal platform for a regional Sentinel program. Key areas of focus include planning for sea level change and storm hazards along the Bay Area’s outer coast, developing a regional ecosystem climate consortium, and adapting to rising tides throughout the region.
- Focus Areas: Providing tools to visualize potential impacts from sea level change, socioeconomic vulnerability analysis that can be used as a model for other regions, adaptation plans, communications and training.
Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative
- Visit the Chesapeake Bay SSC Web Page
- Overview: The Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative is based in the heart of the nation’s largest estuary. The Chesapeake watershed spans 64,000 squares miles, covering parts of six states—Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Over 17 million people live in this area. This sentinel site cooperative will provide information to Chesapeake Bay communities and managers who need to address challenges such as storm flooding, long-term local sea level change, barrier island movement, degraded water quality, and wetland loss. The information will also be useful to federal and state restoration planners and living resource managers who are addressing these challenges.
- Focus Areas: Monitoring surface elevation, subsidence rates, water quality, vegetation, and living resources at sentinel sites; networking sentinel site data with Bay-wide monitoring stations; sea level rise prediction and planning tools; community education and outreach.
Hawaiian Islands Sentinel Site Cooperative
- Visit the Hawaiian Islands SSC Web Page
- Overview: The Hawaiian Islands Sentinel Site Cooperative is a compilation of sites that includes Midway and French Frigate Shoals in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the He‘eia Wetland Restoration project (He‘eia) on the island of Oahu, and Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Cooperative contains some of the most productive and unique ecological sites in U.S. waters and is widely recognized as one of the most valuable ecological locations in the world. With huge variations in human population, this region offers a unique opportunity to assess how ecosystem health may be impacted in both pristine and heavily stressed ecosystems. Because of the robust understanding of the reefs, sea level, and inundation frequencies and magnitudes within this Cooperative, small changes will be more noticeable and more easily identified and understood.
- Focus Areas: Restoring damaged wetlands by monitoring rainfall, stream flow, and salt water intrusion; balancing human needs with ecosystem health; coastal inundation and sea level change.
North Carolina Sentinel Site Cooperative
- Visit the North Carolina SSC Web Page
- Overview: The North Carolina Sentinel Site Cooperative is based in the central N.C. coast, near a multi-partner NOAA laboratory in Beaufort, N.C. Future expansion of this network will include the entire N.C. coast, which offers a gradient in sea level change vulnerability from low-lying, lagoonal, microtidal estuaries to small, highly-flushed, mesotidal estuaries. The coast of North Carolina has one of the highest vulnerabilities to sea level change on the Atlantic coast due to its high wave exposure, low-relief coastal slope, and abundance of barrier islands. The high concentration of marine science facilities, existing water level and shoreline monitoring stations, updated seamless bathytopology, and layers of coastal and marine protected areas ensures that sea level changes and their consequences in this region will be documented with unparalleled accuracy to help inform coastal management decisions.
- Focus Areas: Sea level change and coastal inundation adaptation, planning.
Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative
- Visit the Northern Gulf of Mexico SSC Web Page
- Overview: The Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative encompasses over 250 miles of coastline from the Florida panhandle west to Grand Bay, Miss. This region, with low level topography and extensive marsh and other critical habitats, is highly susceptible to the effects of sea level change. Considerable ongoing monitoring and research activities, particularly within three National Estuarine Research Reserve sites, provide the baseline information and parameters required for an integrative ecosystem approach to address sea level change. Key products will include coupled models of hydrodynamics, sedimentation, salinity, and vegetation dynamics as well as maps that delineate high and low risk areas. These tools and products will help with risk management planning, coastal construction guidelines, resource protection and sustainability needs, and setback guidance.
- Focus Areas: Sea level change, storms and coastal inundation, improved conservation and restoration management tools.
To date, there are five NOAA Sentinel Site Cooperatives (SSC). Select a marker on the map to learn more about each location. NOAA Sentinel Sites will provide tools and resources that people in coastal areas can use to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Send us an email if you're interested in learning more about the program.
Sentinel Sites bring to bear the full force of NOAA data monitoring and measurement to help solve concrete problems that people are facing in local communities.
Have you heard the expression that the 'whole is greater than the sum of its parts?' That's the idea behind NOAA's new Sentinel Site Program. Here's how it works.
NOAA has coastal monitoring and data collection tools, sanctuaries, estuarine reserves, marine protected areas, and other assets located in coastal areas around the nation. These places and equipment serve a variety of functions, such as protecting natural resources, measuring tides, and establishing accurate height measurements. At coastal locations—particularly in places with dense populations and bustling maritime activity—the number of regional NOAA assets are particularly dense and bustling, too!
The NOAA Sentinel Site Program capitalizes on these activities, tying together existing NOAA tools and services in select areas into regional 'Cooperatives.' These Cooperatives bring to bear the full force of NOAA coastal and ecosystem monitoring, measurement, and tools in partnership with federal, state, and local efforts to help solve concrete problems that people are facing in coastal communities.
Who will use the products and services developed by these Cooperatives? People such as coastal zone, resource, and protected area managers; emergency and disaster response personnel; restoration practitioners; coastal research scientists; commercial fisheries managers; members of the maritime commerce and insurance industries; and local planning, tourism, and economic development boards. The NOAA Sentinel Site Program directly engages local, state, and federal managers as part of the Cooperative team. By doing so, managers help ensure the types of science conducted, information gathered, and products developed are immediately used for better management.
This view of the globe is a visualization of the average combined land and ocean surface temperature for June 2010—the warmest on record.
The first order of business for NOAA's Sentinel Sites Program is to shed light on impacts of climate change, focusing on sea level change and coastal inundation. This effort is about more than simply gathering data. It's about gathering people from many backgrounds and disciplines—NOAA and other federal experts, state and local government decision makers, university researchers, and other people who have a stake in a particular region. This 'cooperative' atmosphere will lead to novel solutions to address real-world local problems, such as how to protect a development from rising sea levels or how to best protect a sensitive shoreline habitat.
Why tackle climate change issues with Sentinel Site Cooperatives? The answer is simple. Sea level change and coastal inundation are global issues, but the impacts that communities face are unique. When decisions are made to address coastal threats, those decisions must be tailored to each community. In other words, climate change challenges are best addressed at the local level—using local climate change forecasts, local ocean data, and local information about the people and resources in affected areas. That doesn't mean that solutions generated by Sentinel Site Cooperatives will apply only to individual communities. In many cases, lessons learned in one Cooperative will be applicable to similar areas around the nation.
While the Sentinel Site Program will initially focus on the impacts of sea level change and coastal inundation patterns, this is only the beginning. Future focus areas might include ocean acidification, increased drought or precipitation, or changes in land use patterns. The flexibility to address a variety of different coastal problems points to the greatest strength of the program: Sentinel Site Cooperatives are dynamic. Studying ocean acidification, for instance, may require shifting regional boundaries or selecting different observation tools within a given site. With the Sentinel Site structure and strong regional partnerships in place, NOAA assets may be rearranged at any time to meet new coastal challenges. The networked structure of the program also fosters collaboration and knowledge sharing across Cooperative boundaries. In instances where different regions face similar issues, this will lead to greater efficiencies in tackling common problems simultaneously.
Chesapeake Bay, home to a Sentinel Site Cooperative, is the largest estuary in the nation.
What sort of decisions might result from a Sentinel Site Cooperative? Take the Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative as an example. In this region, there are different tools, resources, and programs that deliver valuable services in their own right, but tying them all together into a Cooperative sets the stage to tackle specific, broader coastal problems facing people throughout this region. The strength of the program is that it brings together a network of people, expertise, and resources that are tied to a single place with a common need. Here are some types of Sentinel Site activities that may result:
- A state management agency that is planning to collect Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) data might increase their area of coverage to include a particular marine protected area (MPA);
- The National Ocean Service might adjust the planned location of a particular observing system, such as tide station, to address not only mandated requirements, but also to support tide control within the same MPA, and might also conduct a shallow water bathymetric survey;
- The federal entity managing this location would continue its ongoing biomonitoring program, but take extra steps to tie into local geospatial frameworks (such as elevation);
- The availability of spatially-focused physical and biological data might enable the development of new ecological forecasting models, which could inform resource management decision-making;
- The availability of elevation and bathymetry data could facilitate the development of a new digital elevation model, which would be used to develop a coastal hydrodynamic model;
- The model and geospatial data together might allow NOAA to develop an inundation visualization tool and enhance local storm surge forecast products, which could inform emergency management action, as well as long-term coastal and ocean planning, and sea level change policy.
The Sentinel Site program kicked off in 2011 with the selection of five initial Cooperatives. These locations were selected based on many factors: the potential for measuring ecological impact of sea level change; socioeconomic factors, such as large population centers; the potential to expand the use of existing NOAA tools, services, and other assets in a given region; and the potential to apply science-based solutions to solve specific regional coastal problems. These are not the only coastal areas in the U.S. that may meet the criteria. Other regions may be added within the next few years.