Rutgers scientists and data managers announced a new climate change mapping website for New Jersey this week.
NJADAPT.org contains interactive maps that allow community planners to see how infrastructure, population and the environment are vulnerable to storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea level rise.
“We heard from a number of people who are doing community-based work that they’re interested in certain assets or certain infrastructure within their communities,” said Jennifer Rovito, a Rutgers geographic data specialist.
“They wanted a kind of a one-stop-shop that they could find all of that information as opposed to going to multiple different websites.”
The site contains the new interactive maps as well as an older online self-assessment tool for towns and cities.
The team hopes to add inland flooding and local temperature maps within a year.
Jeanne Herb, associate director of the Rutgers Environmental Analysis and Communications Group, which is spear-heading the project, said the site will help identify people and assets vulnerable to changing climate conditions and then “jump-start a process to consider how to best address those vulnerabilities.”
The interactive maps allow users to see evacuation routes, emergency medical services, schools and nuclear energy facilities on maps. Then, they can add map layers to see what might be under water with one or two feet of sea level rise, or what is now in a FEMA flood zone or subject to storm surges and coastal flooding.
Richard Moss, senior scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute in College Park, Maryland, who is unaffiliated with the effort, said interactive sites like these make the debate about how to prepare for climate change more accessible.
“What we need more right now is more public engagement,” Moss said.
“There is an awful lot of scientific information that’s out there, what we need more now of is people to get involved and to express what their views are. Do we want to take on these risks or do we think we should just ignore them?”
The site also contains video “story maps” which isolate specific effects of climate change and their impacts on local communities.
One shows that in Toms River, the New Jersey municipality with the highest national flood insurance program payouts, houses affected by storm surges during Sandy lost almost half of their assessed value. Looking forward, with three feet of sea level rise, there will be $1.9 billion worth of residential parcels exposed to flooding, according Rutgers mapping and analysis.
Another video shows that the value of commercial parcels in Atlantic City at risk of “extreme” flood exposure, meaning chronic flooding at high tides and during storms, would more than double by 2100 because of an increased flood-risk footprint.
The same video shows the number of residential parcels with extreme exposure will increase six-fold by the year 2100.
Rutgers led development of the site, with support from the private sector, NGOs and government agencies.
It was modeled after a similar California site, which has logged about 80-thousand unique visitors since its 2011 launch.
Disclosure: WHYY has received grant money from the New Jersey Recovery Fund, which is also funder of NJADAPT.org.