Chatham County Symposium on Climate Change and Sea Level Rise

On September 14, 2021, Chatham County Commission Chairman Chester Ellis organized a public symposium focused on climate change and sea level rise. The symposium included speakers from Georgia Tech, Skidway Institute of Oceanography, Goodwyn Mills & Cawood, Savannah State University, and the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Planning Commission. Residents in the Savannah and Chatham County area had the opportunity to get a variety of questions answered by a panel of experts.

One of those expert presenters and panelists was Russell Clark, senior research scientist in Georgia Tech’s School of Computer Science and co-director of the Georgia Tech Research Network Operations Center. Clark, who is also a faculty member in the Georgia Tech Institute of People and Technology, helps lead the Smart Sea Level Sensors Project which has installed a network of more than 50 internet-enabled water level sensors across flood-vulnerable Chatham County. The project involves a working partnership between officials from the Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) and the City of Savannah—together with a diverse team of scientists and engineers from Georgia Tech.

The project, one of the first of its kind in the region, not only measures and monitors sea level, but is complemented by a suite of modeling tools to inform flood risk and vulnerability, including a high-resolution coastal ocean model as well as an integrated hydrological model to capture surface runoff during high precipitation events.

This Chatham County integrated technology framework designed by Georgia Tech scientists and engineers enables the assessment of short-and long-term coastal flooding risk and vulnerability that are required to inform planning for flood mitigation strategies in Chatham County and high-density population areas, such as the city of Savannah, Georgia.

At the symposium, Clark briefly described the novel LoRaWAN wireless technology being used and presented the Smart Sea Level Sensors Project public data portal/dashboard to review sea level sensor data in Chatham County. The project team is also building an emergency planning portal to flag bridges and other critical infrastructure at flood risk. In addition, they are with building a 3-day flood forecasting model for the county.

The other expert presenters and panelists that joined Clark at the climate change and sea level rise symposium were:

  • Clark Alexander, director and professor in the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography at the University of Georgia
  • Jackie Jackson, director of advance planning and special projects, Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Planning Commission
  • Carol Pride, professor and chair of the Department of Marine and Environmental Science, Savannah State University
  • Courtney Reich, vice president, environmental, for the engineering and architecture firm of Goodwyn Mills Cawood (GMC)

The full September 14, 2021, Chatham County symposium can be viewed here.

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  • Russell Clark presenting - senior research scientist at Georgia Tech

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Walter Rich