Superfund Climate Change Adaptation: Information Sources

Resources to help cleanup project managers and other stakeholders understand climate change adaptation planning and implementation at contaminated sites are readily available online from several federal agencies. The topics and types of resources vary, ranging from interactive maps that focus on certain impacts of climate change to compendiums containing extensive background information and other tools supporting climate change adaptation decisions.


Climate Change Impacts


Information Resources and Type of Information Available for Applicable Impact

Temperature Precipitation Wind Sea Level Rise Wildfires
          ♦           ♦        ♦   EPA Climate Change Indicators in the United States website
  • Information on "weather and climate" indicators relating to temperatures, precipitation and drought as well as extreme oceanic, snowfall and ice scenarios
          ♦           ♦    ♦      ♦   EPA Climate Resilience Evaluation & Awareness Tool (CREAT) website
            ♦       EPA National Stormwater Calculator website
  • Desktop application to estimate rainwater and runoff frequency based on soil types, drainage, topography, precipitation, evaporation and future climate change scenarios
            ♦       Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Map Service Center website
  • Floodplain maps
       ♦         ♦ National Interagency Coordination Center National Interagency Fire Center website
  • Regional outlooks on wildlife activity and maps of current fire locations
            ♦       National Integrated Drought Information System U.S. Drought Portal website
  • Updates to the U.S. Drought Monitor map, drought impact summaries and forecasts
          ♦           ♦       National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center website
  • Data on soil moisture, evaporation, precipitation, runoff and temperature affecting drought conditions
       ♦     National Weather Service National Hurricane Center website
  • Advisories, forecasts, and historical data on hurricane activity
            ♦    ♦       ♦   National Weather Service Probabilistic Hurricane Storm Surge website
  • Projections on storm surges
            ♦    ♦     National Weather Service Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) website
  • A computerized model to estimate storm surge heights and interactive web mapping to evaluate worst case storm surge inundation scenarios in coastal areas
            ♦    ♦       ♦   National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Services Digital Coast website
          ♦           ♦    ♦     National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center website
            ♦    ♦       ♦   National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Tides and Currents website
  • Information on local sea level trends
            ♦   U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sea-Level Change Curve Calculator
  • An online calculator producing the amount of predicted sea level change
            ♦   U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Coastal Change Hazards portal
  • Interactive map illustrating potential coastal change vulnerabilities, rates of shoreline change, and probability of erosion due to storm events or long-term sea level rise
            ♦       U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landslide Hazards Program website
  • Information on landslide risks and a national landslide susceptibility map
            ♦       U.S. Geological Survey Groundwater Watch website
  • A searchable database containing groundwater records from about 850,000 wells in the United States
          ♦           ♦       U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Change Viewer website
  • Interactive map to visualize projected changes in climate and water balance (snow water equivalent, runoff, soil water storage and evaporative deficit) on an 800-meter grid

Many climate change adaptation reference resources focus on engineered structures installed to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts, including those potentially affecting site remediation systems and activities.

Engineered Structures Commonly Used in Adaptation Measures
Armor Fixed structures placed on or along the shoreline of flowing inland water or ocean water to mitigate effects of erosion and protect site infrastructure. "Soft" armor may comprise synthetic fabrics and/or deep-rooted vegetation; "hard" armor may consist of riprap, gabions and segmental retaining walls.
Berm A low, impermanent, nearly horizontal ledge or narrow terrace made of earthen material to retain or divert floodwater.
Bulkhead A structure or partition to retain or prevent land sliding and to protect uplands against damage from wave action.
Coastal hardening Installation of structures to stabilize a shoreline and shield it from erosion. Techniques for “soft” stabilization involve replenishment of sand and/or vegetation or placement of other natural materials. "Hard" stabilization typically involves bulkheads, concrete sea walls, riprap, jetties or groins.
Dam An earthen, rock, concrete and/or steel barrier constructed across a flowing water channel to impound water and, as needed, divert floodwater.
Dike A wall, generally made of earthen materials, designed to prevent permanent submergence of lands below sea level, tidal flooding of lands between sea level and spring high water, or storm-surge inundation of a floodplain.
Fire barrier A network of buffer areas (land free of dried vegetation and other flammable materials) and/or manufactured systems (such as such as radiant energy shields and electrical raceway fire barrier systems) to prevent spread of fire.
Gabion A wire mesh basket or mattress filled with rocks or in some cases masonry materials to stabilize banks and/or beds of surface water channels, divert floodwater away from certain sections of a channel, or retain land slopes.
Groin A structure typically made of concrete, timbers, steel or rock, and oriented perpendicular to a coastline to accumulate littoral sand by interrupting long-shore transport processes.
Ground anchor A steel bar installed in a cement-grouted borehole to secure an apparatus on a ground surface or to reinforce a retaining wall against a sloped earth mass.
Hurricane strap A heavy metal bracket that reinforces physical connection between the roof and walls of a building or housing unit.
Jetty A structure of concrete and/or rock at the mouth of a river or tidal inlet to help stabilize a navigation channel, by preventing channel shoaling due to littoral materials and directing and/or confining the river or tidal flow.
Levee A wall, generally made of earthen materials, designed to prevent the flooding of a river after periods of exceptional rainfall.
Retaining wall A structure that supports earth masses having a vertical or near-vertical slope (such as 70 degrees). The structure may consist of material such as concrete, gabions, steel sheet piles or timber (and may include a reinforcement element such as geosynthetic material) forming a gravity wall, cantilevered wall, anchored wall or mechanically stabilized wall.
Riprap A layer, facing or protective mound of stones randomly placed along stream or river banks, a shoreline or a structure to prevent erosion, scour or sloughing.
Seawall A structure typically built parallel to a coastal shore to prevent erosion and other damage by wave action, often retaining the earth against its shoreward face. A "hard" seawall is often made of concrete or stone and is more massive than – and therefore capable of resisting greater wave forces than – a bulkhead. A “soft” seawall consists of replenished sand and/or vegetation.
Stormwater pond A constructed basin intended to retain or detain stormwater runoff; a retention pond ("wet pond") holds a permanent pool of water throughout the year (or at least throughout the wet season) while a detention pond ("dry pond") is designed to detain runoff for a minimum time (such as 24 hours) during storm events.
Tie down A permanent mount that allows rapid deployment of a cable system extending from the top of a unit to the ground surface.
Vegetated swale A broad, shallow channel with a dense stand of vegetation covering the side slopes and bottom of an earthen structure to retain or divert floodwater.

[Descriptions of these engineered structures are extracted or adapted from resources such as the: (1) U.S. EPA Office of Air and Radiation/Office of Atmospheric Programs/Climate Change Division; Vocabulary Catalog List Detail – Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-level Rise Glossary and Acronyms; (2) U.S. EPA; National Menu of Stormwater Best Management Practices; (3) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Coastal and Hydraulics Library; Glossary; and (3) NOAA; Ocean & Coastal Resource Management; Shoreline Management Types: Definitions.]

More Information

Detailed information about methods to assess exposure to climate change hazards, evaluate system or site sensitivity to the hazards, and determine overall vulnerability to the hazards is available in the resources below.

A climate change-related hazard potentially affecting a remediation system may involve:

  • An event, such as a hurricane
  • A sustained change, such as drought
  • An unanticipated project parameter, such as increased stormwater
  • A technological problem arising in the system or site infrastructure, such as power loss.
  • U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit: Federal inter-agency resource containing data, information and decision-support tools to help federal, regional, state, local, tribal, private-sector and nonprofit organizations prepare for the impacts of climate change. The toolkit addresses coastal flood risk (sea level rise, erosion, storm surge, tsunami, inland flooding and shallow coastal flooding) and ecosystem vulnerability (fire regimes, water resources, carbon balance, invasive species and biodiversity conservation)
  • Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Exit: Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Working Group II). Chapter 19 discusses assessment of key vulnerabilities.
  • Preparing for Climate Change: A Guidebook for Local, Regional and State Governments Exit: Guidance (as published in 2007 through a Local Governments for Sustainability partnership and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA]) to provide local, regional or state governments with a detailed easy-to-understand process for climate change preparedness.

Information to help understand broader aspects of climate change adaptation planning and implementation is available through these online resources:

The concepts, tools and examples provided in these resources may be used to tailor adaptation measures for specific remediation systems. Additionally, they may help ensure that the measures align with climate change actions taken by regional, state and local agencies.

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