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SC Sea Grant Consortium
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Coastal Climate
Coastal Climate

Weather is the short term (daily-to-weekly) atmospheric conditions we experience. Climate is the long-term average weather conditions over time (seasonal-to-millennial periods) that are characteristic of a region like the Carolina coasts. Climatology is the study of climate, and it includes historical climate characteristics, ranges of natural variations in climate, and long-term climate change. Climate also includes the ways the ocean interacts with the land and the air. This means that coastal climate studies consider both atmospheric and marine data, like marine winds, salinity, currents, wave characteristics, and tides.

Coastal South Carolina residents face a variety of weather- and climate-related hazards, including hurricanes, storm surge, and coastal flooding. As our climate changes, so will the risks associated with these hazards. The specifics of a future climate cannot be known for certain, but scientists can produce scenarios of what is likely to occur based on best available evidence. These scenarios can help residents consider what aspects of life might be affected by these environmental changes. Similar to listening to the morning weather forecast to decide whether you should take an umbrella to work, future climate projections provide information on which to base future planning.

Climate Fact Sheet (PDF) to review climate-related information specific to South Carolina and the Southeast.

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium is in league with the Charleston Resilience Network to foster a unified strategy to coastal and natural hazards and to provide a forum to share science-based information, educate stakeholders and enhance long-term planning decisions that result in resilience.

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium has partnered with the Carolinas Integrated Science Assessment (CISA) Program, a NOAA supported program housed at the University of South Carolina, to develop the Coastal Carolina Climate Program. Major objectives of this program are to:
1)  Develop, evaluate and provide key information on how climatic conditions in coastal Carolina may be changing at present and what may be expected to happen in the future. This information will be made available to the public, stakeholders, government agencies and educational programs.

2)  Develop, evaluate and provide information on the impact of future climatic change on coastal Carolina. This information includes the effect of sea level rise, changes in hydrological conditions (droughts and wet periods) that will control the water quantity and quality getting into estuarine environments (for example, the salt water wedge), extreme weather events, and changes in environmental conditions necessary to support fisheries and aquaculture (both near and off shore).

Contact Sarah Watson:

Examples of How We Work:

Working Waterfronts Community Forums: Resources and Responses to Questions

After hearing from coastal communities that they were struggling to maintain and/or evolve their traditional working waterfronts, the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and researchers from Clemson University and College of Charleston talked with stakeholders from Murrells Inlet, Georgetown, McClellanville, Mount Pleasant (Shem Creek), and Port Royal. In group meetings and individual interviews conducted during 2015 and 2016, researchers asked about the future of traditional working waterfronts and gathered information that helped identify needs, challenges, and opportunities for each community. The results of this research were presented at Community Forums designed to facilitate discussion and help prioritize issues.

Visit our project-specific webpage.

Vulnerable Water Infrastructure in Coastal Cities-A Community-Wide Public Health Risk Assessment of Vulnerable Water Infrastructure in Coastal Cities

Focusing specifically on water and wastewater infrastructure, we are assessing vulnerability to extreme events and rising sea levels by identifying the populations most susceptible to public health risks from infrastructure failure due to flooding. With input from municipal managers, health system managers, water utility specialists, health care experts, state agency managers, and others, we are developing a two-stage Susceptibility Index. The pilot projects, conducted in two locations, Charleston, SC and Morehead City, NC, allow the researchers to test the assessment in differently sized communities. The final product will be a “how-to” manual that will allow other communities to conduct similar assessments.

Visit our project-specific webpage.

Our Coastal Future Forum

This research project explores a new process to include citizens, natural resource managers, scientists, and government officials in a supportive setting to discuss the coastal future of South Carolina. Our plan is to use deliberative discussion to bridge the sometimes opposing opinions on environmental issues. The project is guided by a panel of scientific experts and a panel of community leaders to assure that the science and issues are on-point for our coastal areas. The Forum will be held this fall with attendees from the coastal counties and decision-makers from coastal communities.

Visit our project-specific webpage.

A Participatory Approach to Preparing for Sea Level Rise in Beaufort County, SC

Beaufort County, South Carolina, is a low-lying coastal county with a high vulnerability to flooding and other coastal hazards. Just over half of the County is open water, sounds, marshes and estuaries, and much of the County consists of islands that rely on causeways and bridges for transportation, infrastructure connections, and storm evacuations. Residents have already noticed the effects of rising sea levels; however, the County is finding it difficult to effectively plan given the compounding uncertainties about sea level rise (SLR) and its consequences on the human environment. Adaptation plans are much stronger when they incorporate the experiences of local stakeholders. This project was designed to provide a participatory opportunity for Beaufort County to begin preparing for flooding associated with SLR. Local stakeholders were engaged through interviews, the VCAPS process, SLR-scenario building, and public workshops to develop and discuss trade-offs among adaptation strategies. All of this input will be compiled into a report for consideration by Beaufort County Council. This process has initiated a process of community learning that will increase the capacity of Beaufort County to adapt to SLR regardless of whether the council takes action to amend policy.

Visit our Beaufort County specific-website.
Sea Level Rise Adaptation Final Report (full report)
Sea Level Rise Adaptation Final Report (executive summary)

Blue Crab Fishermen Identify Ways to Adapt to Changing Climate
The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, in partnership with the Social and Environmental Research Institute (SERI), is working with blue crab fishermen in Beaufort County to determine what effect climate change, namely drought and increased stormwater runoff, has on their fishery. During the summer and fall of 2013, fishermen participated in Vulnerability and Consequences Adaptation Planning Scenario workshops that helped identify components of the fishery most affected by a changing climate. Crabbers now plan to become involved in monitoring the fishery, including collecting basic environmental data, so that they can work with resources managers to better identify when and where changes occur. From this partnership and improved communication, fishermen, scientists and managers can work together to develop adaption strategies that allow them to continue to land a high quality product.

Cities of Beaufort/Port Royal Community-Based Sea Level Rise Task Force
Citizens of Beaufort and Port Royal have recognized the long-term threat that rising seas pose to the health and well-being of their community. They have formed a sea level rise task force to help guide the community to become more resilient to future sea level rise and thus protect their coastal economy. The S.C Sea Grant Consortium, in partnership with CISA, will provide the professional support for the Task Force to help guide the information collection and planning process.

Develop an adaptation outreach plan for the small fishing village of McClellanville, S.C.
The historic town of McClellanville faces several climate-related hazards, including erosion and stormwater management issues. However, communicating risks and adaptation options requires understanding local perspectives of the natural environment and climate change. The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, in partnership with CISA and SERI, used a facilitated discussion process to assist residents of McClellanville in exploring the consequences of climate variability and change on stormwater management in the town. Residents and community leaders were also interviewed about their perceptions of environmental issues and climate change. Panels that provide outreach information on local hazards, future climate projections, and adaptation options will be placed in the town hall.

Integrating scientific and local knowledge to inform risk-based management approaches for climate adaptation in Sullivan’s Island, SC
The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, in partnership with CISA and SERI, worked with local government staff in an urbanized barrier island community (Sullivan’s Island, SC) to consider climate risks, impacts, and adaptation challenges associated with sea level rise and wastewater and stormwater management. The process increased understanding of town officials’ views of risks and climate change impacts to barrier islands, the management actions being considered to address of the multiple impacts of concern, and the local tradeoffs and challenges in adaptation planning.

Climate Risk Management (PDF) published paper on this project.

Relevant links

Last updated: 12/7/2017 12:29:02 PM
Extension – Coastal Climate


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