Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Projections for the National Park Service

From the University of Colorado in partnership with the National Park Service, this report describes how climate change and associated sea level rise and storm surge can affect coastal U.S. National Park infrastructure, facilities, and resources. This analysis provides sea level rise projections for 118 park units and storm surge projections for 79 of those parks - from which storm surge maps for each site are included. These results are intended to inform adaptation planning for coastal parks and resources managed by the National Park Service.

Datasets from NOAA and the IPCC were analyzed and downscaled for individual national parks. Potential future inundation and storm surge was estimated under four GHG emissions scenarios, and across three future time horizons (2030, 2050 and 2100).  A full list of the 118 park units and a table listing sea level projections by park are available in Appendix D.

All coastal parks were found to be facing both heightened levels of sea level rise and greater storms and storm surge into the future. Projections indicate that the parks in the Outer Banks of North Carolina will experience the greatest amount of sea level rise over the next century, while the National Capital Region is projected to experience the highest average rate of sea level change by 2100. The Southeast Region as a whole is generally susceptible to inundation and flooding due to its low-lying nature in many places, and the parks of the southeast coast are also at higher risk of storm surge from increasing occurrence and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. Sea level rise maps (Appendix A) illustrate how much all of these park units may be inundated. 

One of the activities planned for this project is to create wayside exhibits with information about the impacts of climate change in the coastal zone for three National Park Service units. Three parks now have completed wayside exhibits in place: Gulf Islands National Seashore, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, and Fire Island National Seashore, each with customized designs that reflect the messaging and/or themes of each unit.

Publication Date: May 21, 2018

Related Organizations:


  • Coastal
  • Land management and conservation
  • Tourism and recreation

Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Climate science


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