STORMTOOLS: An integrated suite of planning tools to assess risk and damage from coastal flooding, including the effects of sea level rise.

Rhode Island
Submitted by:
Malcolm L. Spaulding
Ocean Engineering, University of RI
Project URLs:

Project Description

The STORMTOOLS was initiated in 2015 with the development of high resolution coastal flooding maps for state of RI, including the impact of sea level rise (SLR) through 2100. Simulations were also performed for 25, 50, and 100 yr return period storms, as well as nuisance storms with 3, 5, and 10 yr return periods, and historical tropical storm events (1938, 1954, 1991, and 2012). The maps were based on simulations of tropical and extratropical storms using high resolution, fully coupled hydrodynamic and wave models from the US Army Corp of Engineering North Atlantic Comprehensive Coastal Study (NACCS). In 2016 the Coastal Environmental Risk Index (CERI) was developed to assess the risk and damage to structures and infrastructure resulting from storm surges, including the effects of sea level rise. The model was initially applied to selected communities with high density, residential development inside Narragansett Bay where wave exposure is limited and to one coastal community along the southern RI community, where wave exposure and erosion are important. Based on the success of these initial applications in helping coastal communities, regulators, and homeowners understand risks to buildings, CERI was extended to all communities along the southern RI shoreline. To improve understanding of the impact of shoreline erosion, the modeling framework was enhanced to include a state of the art geomorphological model. One benefit in applying CERI to the various locations in the state was the development of Base Flood Elevation (BFE) maps, including SLR for the coastal areas of the state, which include the impact of sea level rise. The availability of the BFE maps and CERI applications to selected communities allowed the development of a risk based permitting system (Coastal Hazard Application, CHA) operated by the RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) under the Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan (Beach SAMP), which went on line in 2019. The SDE maps, CERI results, and CHA are all available on-line. To facilitate access to CERI and the BFE maps a mobile phone app was developed to allow the user to assess the risk to any structure to coastal flooding including the effects of climate change. The free app is available for both iOS and Android operating systems. A suite of papers has been published on the work summarized above. Given its popularity the paper describing the CERI app was selected as a featured article by the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering.

Key Successes

New risk based permitting system implemented. Only one in nation that explicitly includes effects of SLR.


Transition to other coastal communities. Improve methods to perform risk assessment. Develop design load maps to facilitate application of state of the art tools to all structures in the coastal zone.
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