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Facing the Challenge: Mapping Floodplains

In a recent post, UCLA Professor Matthew E. Kahn discusses the release of a series of flood maps in Norfolk, VA. The maps, which can be found in the flood awareness section of the City’s website, are intended to provide citizens with information about how projected flooding will impact them. The site even includes a program called Is My Home in a Flood Zone?, through which residents can input their home address and learn about the flood risk they face.

Kahn suggests, “Such information is a necessary step to help households and firms adapt to the “new normal.” This is a hopeful step forward in the way citizens and governments are handling our changing climate. Kahn alludes to the sensitive legal matter of evacuation and relocation once it is clear the new floodplain will be uninhabitable. Sensitive or not, it is an issue that will have to be dealt with, and education is an important first step.

According to the Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR) project, for which ACT is leading the Metro Vancouver research node, Vancouver is the Canadian city most at risk to the impacts of sea-level rise and related climate change threats: “[The City] is rated 16th for exposed assets, with USD $55 billion at risk, and 32nd in terms of population at risk, with 320,000 people exposed.”

Currently the BC Ministry of Environment has designated floodplain maps available on the government website for emergency preparedness and broad-based floodplain management as well as information pertaining to climate adaptation and sea-level rise in BC. UBC’s Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP) has produced visualizations of coastal inundation for the Corporation of Delta, BC that offer examples of adaptive responses.

In Kahn’s final notes about Norfolk’s efforts to face the challenge of flood projections, he reminds us that maps will need to be continuously updated to illustrate the most recent and accurate data. We no longer live in a world where water flows within a predictable cycle.

Sea level rise is no exception, as noted in a recent ACT blog post about the increasingly rapid melting of Antarctica’s ice sheets. As the time lags of climate change catch up to us we will need to be prepared to deal with problems far outside the parameters of “normal” that we are used to.

Written by Lauren Klose, ACT Intern

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