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NOAA Sentinel Site Program

First on the Agenda
Addressing the impacts of climate change, with a focus on sea level change and coastal inundation.

Sentinel Site logo

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.

Sea level change and coastal inundation are global issues, but the impacts that communities face are unique. Sentinel Site Program Cooperatives help communities develop 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 and water 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.

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Geospatial Infrastructure: Informing Adaptation to Sea Level Rise (captions)

This map shows regional trends in sea level, with arrows representing the direction and magnitude of change. Most people are surprised to learn that the surface of the ocean is not flat, and that the surface of the sea changes at different rates around the globe. For instance, the absolute water level height is higher along the West Coast of the United States than the East Coast. Since sea levels vary and change over time at different rates from place to place, there is no single solution to address the problem of sea level change related to climate change.