Climate Change Showing Effects at Kennedy Space Center

The University of Florida has been working in a partnership with U.S. geological survey and NASA environmental to provide some information as to why the particular areas of the beach that are near the launch pads have undergone erosion especially after major storms. Sea level is important because what it does is that it gradually moves that high tide line closer to land but it also allows for storm surge to move closer to land so what you see, as you lift, as sea level rises it moves that interface landward. As far as climate change, you know, it will be a consequence as rising sea level but also the frequency of storms. Our role, as the geological scientists, has been to really quantify how much change is occurring and what style it's occurring. And that information is being used to inform some of the decision making that the NASA is leading.

We've been keeping an eye on the shoreline for many years now and it was actually in 2004 when we had the devastating effects, the big trifecta of hurricanes, of Charlie, Francis and Gene and we really started to see the erosion on the shoreline and the washouts underneath the railroad tracks and the wash overs and we realized that this was you know a long-term problem that we really needed to address. We're measuring the shape of the beach and how much sand is here and we use a global positioning system, GPS, corrected, so that we have very high precision measurements. What we'll do is we'll drive up and down the beach measuring the elevation. What you've really seen in the last five years, is especially after hurricane Sandy, a part of the dunes from here south towards 39A that was largely removed during the storm so where we're standing right here behind you there you used to be a tall dune,that was probably about 6 feet high, it's gone now because Sandy took it out. The dune, it's at a higher elevation than the beach.

But if the water gets high enough, due to one of these storms, and elevated water levels during the storm surge and high waves, that can over top the dune,erode it down, and then you've got a much more vulnerable spot. We've built a new secondary dune out there on the beach line, but that's just a portion of it, we still have another 3 miles that we would like to install and resurrect a secondary dune because we are very concerned about the launch infrastructure of launch pads A and B. Because without that secondary dune, another big storm, we could have saltwater intrusion at the launch pad. But we do have contingency in our master plan for the Kennedy Space Center that would allow us to build additional launch pads, if we needed to build them somewhere else but at this point we don't envision doing that.

We've collected at least 5 years of monthly observations, ideally we'd like to keep coming out here at least once a year for as long as NASA will give us access so that we can really continue this long data set that's really unique in terms of coastal processes. Understanding how beach is changing, and how the shoreline retreats to different events and even longer term processes is important for economics it's important for policy making. It's just knowing about our environment which we live..