Consideration of vertical uncertainty in elevation-based sea-level rise assessments: Mobile Bay, Alabama case study

Journal of Coastal Research



The accuracy with which coastal topography has been mapped directly affects the reliability and usefulness of elevationbased sea-level rise vulnerability assessments. Recent research has shown that the qualities of the elevation data must be well understood to properly model potential impacts. The cumulative vertical uncertainty has contributions from elevation data error, water level data uncertainties, and vertical datum and transformation uncertainties. The concepts of minimum sealevel rise increment and minimum planning timeline, important parameters for an elevation-based sea-level rise assessment, are used in recognition of the inherent vertical uncertainty of the underlying data. These concepts were applied to conduct a sea-level rise vulnerability assessment of the Mobile Bay, Alabama, region based on high-quality lidar-derived elevation data. The results that detail the area and associated resources (land cover, population, and infrastructure) vulnerable to a 1.18-m sea-level rise by the year 2100 are reported as a range of values (at the 95% confidence level) to account for the vertical uncertainty in the base data. Examination of the tabulated statistics about land cover, population, and infrastructure in the minimum and maximum vulnerable areas shows that these resources are not uniformly distributed throughout the overall vulnerable zone. The methods demonstrated in the Mobile Bay analysis provide an example of how to consider and properly account for vertical uncertainty in elevation-based sea-level rise vulnerability assessments, and the advantages of doing so.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Consideration of vertical uncertainty in elevation-based sea-level rise assessments: Mobile Bay, Alabama case study
Series title Journal of Coastal Research
DOI 10.2112/SI63-016.1
Volume 63
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Coastal Education and Research Foundation
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Description 14 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Journal of Coastal Research
First page 197
Last page 210
Country United States
State Alabama
Other Geospatial Mobile Bay
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