Stronger coastal storms alter seaside landscape

Posted on March 14, 2023

Heidi Duncanson | Seacoast Science Center 

Since 2009, Seacoast Science Center (SSC) has been holding its Rescue Run: Race for Marine Mammals as a fundraising event in Odiorne Point State Park in April. This year, it is part of the Rye 400 slate of events that local residents are encouraged to participate in. The race traverses most of the seven habitats of the -acre state park, but due to damage caused by recent coastal storms, the course is being rerouted in certain spots this year.

“Walking the course in February, we found areas along the water where the trail had washed out, and other pathways completely covered in rocks that had been tossed up by storms,” explained Ashley Stokes, director of SSC’s Marine Mammal Rescue program and long-time coordinator of the Rescue Run. “It was clear that storm surge has been affecting the shoreline and we would have to re-route sections of the course for 2023. We spent time finding alternate stretches for the course ensuring that the overall distance stayed the same.”

Jim Chase, Chief Executive Officer at SSC, points to research being done locally, regionally and nationally showing that we are experiencing stronger and more frequent coastal storms. “The New Hampshire Coastal Adaptation Workshop has been modeling climate change, sea level rise, and developing tools to assist coastal communities prepare for the impacts of extreme weather,” he said. “For example, their NH Coastal Viewer (www.nhcoastalviewer.org) maps all kinds of scientific data for many communities in the NH coastal watershed. Data layers that can be viewed incorporate research from NH GRANIT, University of New Hampshire; New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services; US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; US Park Service; Bing and Esri; NH SADES and FEMA.”

Another place to find research data on our coastal environment is the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. Their Coastal Flood Risk Summary was developed by a Science and Technical Advisory Panel steering committee comprised of representatives from the NH Department of Transportation, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Office of Strategic Initiatives, Fish and Game Department, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Department of Administrative Services, Rockingham Planning Commission, Strafford Regional Planning Commission, University of New Hampshire, coastal municipalities, and NH Coastal Adaptation Workgroup. Their comprehensive report synthesizes the most recent scientific data and includes videos and webinars that take a deeper dive into the data. You can access all of this information at:  www.des.nh.gov/about/boards-and-committees/coastal-flood-risk.

Seacoast Science Center’s 2023 Rescue Run presented by Meredith Village Savings Bank, with its strategic course changes, is set for Saturday, April 22 (Earth Day!)  starting at 9am. In addition to the trail run, there will be kids fun runs, prizes, refreshments and a beach cleanup led by Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. All funds raised benefit the center’s Marine Mammal Rescue program. For more information including registration, please visit www.seacoastsciencecenter.org/events.

Aerial image courtesy of Mark Wiley.

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