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News Archives - 2011

USACE Updates Sea-Level Change Guidance

Graphic of Observed sea-level trends (NOAA), Coastal Vulnerability Index (USGS), USACE Projects, and Port  Tonnage on map of Population Density (Census)

Observed sea-level trends (NOAA), Coastal Vulnerability Index (USGS), USACE Projects, and Port Tonnage on map of Population Density (Census). This map represents collaborative efforts with USGS and NOAA around understanding sea-level change.

Graphic of Comparison of Sea-Level Rise Scenarios

Comparison of Sea-Level Rise Scenarios

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released updated guidance to Engineer Circular (EC) 1165-2-211 (2009) “Incorporating Sea-Level Change Considerations in Civil Works Programs.” The new guidance, released in November 2011, is EC 1165-2-212 "Sea-Level Change Considerations for Civil Works Programs".

USACE has a large coastal program that supports inland and maritime transportation, hurricane and coastal risk reduction, and ecosystem restoration. USACE is very interested in what the future holds for coastal areas. Interagency Performance Evaluation (IPET) findings after Hurricane Katrina led USACE to update and expand policies and guidance to incorporate new and changing conditions in project planning and engineering.

The 2009 scenario-based sea-level change guidance was developed with the aid of other agency experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) guidance. It expanded 1986 planning guidance on sea-level change to the whole project life cycle (except regulatory).

The guidance series has a two-year lifespan, leading to the new 2011 release. This 2011 update includes:

  • additional references and discussion reflecting recent advances and understanding of sea-level change since 2008-2009, including a statement that a credible upper bound for 21st century sea-level rise would not exceed 2 meters. This statement is based upon recent peer-reviewed articles by several authors using different methods but arriving at similar conclusions.
  • update to the start date of sea-level rise projection curves to conform with the current NOAA National Tidal Datum Epoch consistent with our datum guidance. ("Adjusting the equation to include the historic global mean sea-level change rate of 1.7 mm/year and the start date of 1992 (which corresponds to the midpoint of the current National Tidal Datum Epoch of 1983-2001), instead of 1986 (the start date for equation 1), results in updated values for the variable b being equal to 2.71E-5 for modified NRC Curve I, 7.00E-5 for modified NRC Curve II, and 1.13E-4 for modified NRC Curve III.")
  • an additional figure quantifying the expected sea-level change trend error as a function of tidal data record length, to reinforce the need for longer records.
  • update to the Appendix C flowchart to address comments from the field about risk assessment.

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posted December 20, 2011

IWR Climate and Global Change Teams Publish Article in livebetter eMagazine

Photo of flooding in Burlington, North Dakota

Burlington, ND – Col. Michael Price, commander of USACE St. Paul District (left); Mark Koenig, USACE St. Paul District, emergency operations manager; and Mike Raasakka, North Dakota Game and Fish, tour flooded areas in Burlington on June 30. USACE photo by Patrick Moes, Public Affairs Specialist, St. Louis District.

Photo of flooding in Vicksburg, Mississippi

Vicksburg, MS – The Old Train Depot at the river front in Vicksburg had the first floor partially submerged as the flood waters travelled passed in May 2011. USACE photo by Patrick Moes, Public Affairs Specialist, St. Louis District.

"Adapting to Climate and Global Change You are leaving a Federal Government web site. Click this icon for more information." has been published in the October 2011 edition of livebetter eMagazine. The authors are Kate White, Ph.D., P.E., Senior Lead for Global and Climate Change, and Jeff Arnold, Ph.D., Senior Climate Scientist, both of USACE IWR. The article presents the USACE position on Climate Change Adaptation, how it affects planning and operations, and why it's important to public health and safety.

In "Adapting to Climate and Global Change You are leaving a Federal Government web site. Click this icon for more information." the authors discuss the challenges of a changing climate in context with other national and global challenges that have the potential to affect missions and operations carried out by USACE. They talk about water resources infrastructure both as an investment that supports public safety and economic growth and as a tool designed to help manage extreme hydrologic effects.

The authors discuss how USACE plans to continue adapting its projects and programs within current authorizations to enhance their resilience against potential climate threats to its missions and objectives. The "USACE Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report 2011," released in June 2011 (pdf, 7.98 MB) and revised September 2011 (pdf, 1.99 MB) , is discussed as well as the national and international collaborations USACE pursues to increase its knowledge base about best practices in studying climate change and how to mitigate climate change effects. They also highlight USACE 2012 priorities regarding its work to mainstream climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The article features quotes by Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, who signed the "Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report 2011," and by USACE Civil Works Program Director Steven Stockton.

You can learn more about how USACE is studying climate variability and methods to adapt its operations and missions throughout this website.

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Climate and Global Change Teams Welcome Dr. Raff

Photo of Dr. Raff
Dr. David Raff

USACE IWR is pleased to have David Raff, PhD, PE joining the USACE climate and global change teams. Dr. Raff joins USACE from the Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation where he worked for the past eight and a half years. David had relocated to Delaware and USACE had a hydrologic engineer position opening at an opportune time.

While at Reclamation, Dr. Raff served as Technical Specialist for the Flood Hydrology and Emergency Management group. Most recently he was the programmatic lead for the Basin Study Program — the major implementation component of the authorities contained within Public Law 111-11 Section 9503 (SECURE Water Act). This program is primarily focused on developing the tools, information (including the impacts of the changing climate) and adaptation options to reduce current and future water supply and demand imbalances. Most notably Dr. Raff orchestrated the development of the report to congress, completed in April 2011, under the authorities of the SECURE Water Act This link leaves this site for another Federal Government web site.. (pdf, 3.50 MB)

Dr. Raff is a licensed Professional Engineer with a somewhat varied academic background. He received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University, and an MS in Rangeland Ecology and PhD in Civil Engineering both from Colorado State University. Dr. Raff has been involved with research and implementation policy on flood risk estimation, climate change adaptation, as well as water supply predictability. He has been engaged with the USACE climate community for the past few years including co-authoring USGS Circular 1331 This link leaves this site for another Federal Government web site. with Rolf Olsen and Kate White amongst authors from Reclamation, USGS, and NOAA. Additionally Dr. Raff served on the Expert Opinion Elicitation Panel assessing impacts of increasing flood flows on the Fargo, ND - Moorhead, MN flood risk management project.

The USACE climate and global change teams anticipate that immediate opportunities exist for Dr. Raff's background and expertise to work in support of the climate change community at USACE. In addition to the climate work, Dr. Raff's capabilities will extend IWR support of Hydrology and Hydraulics Community of Practice in Engineering and Construction in areas such as flood risk estimation, water control, and assessments of infrastructure safety and reliability.

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Climate Change Adaptation Plan Submitted to President's Council on Environmental Quality

Photo of USACE Map of Projects
Locations of USACE Projects in the US (Click for a Larger View)

On June 3, 2011, Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, submitted the USACE Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report 2011 (pdf, 7.8 MB) to the Executive Office of the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The report was a response to the CEQ's Implementing Instructions for Federal Agency Climate Change Adaptation (pdf, 1.4 MB), issued on March 4, 2011. IWR's Kate White, PhD, PE and Jeff Arnold, PhD were leading authors on the report.

The report outlines 21st Century challenges arising from climate change, guiding questions for high-level vulnerability assessment, and USACE climate change adaptation planning and implementation strategies. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recognizes the very significant differences between climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation in terms of physical complexity, fiscal and material resources, level of knowledge and technical readiness, and temporal and geographic scale. Because of these differences, understanding and implementing climate adaptation policies and measures requires very different knowledge, skills, and abilities than implementing mitigation measures. As a result, the Chief, Engineering & Construction will serve as the head of the agency's Adaptation Steering Committee.

In mainstreaming adaptation, the USACE goal is to develop practical, nationally consistent, legally justifiable, and cost effective measures, both structural and nonstructural, to reduce vulnerabilities and improve the resilience of our water resources infrastructure impacted by climate change and other global changes.

"We believe that all of these activities will help us to identify changes, whether singly or in combination, that will impact water resources infrastructure performance and reliability, so we can proactively take action to reduce our risks and adverse consequences," said Steve Stockton, Director of the USACE Civil Works program. "Many of the lessons learned in adapting to climate change leave us in a better position to act effectively in the face of other global changes."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversees and administers public water resources and associated infrastructure in every state, as well as several international river basins. It is the largest and oldest Federal water resources management and military support agency in the nation.

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Reviewed 20 June 2016

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