MEASURING AND MODELING THE EFFECTS OF SEA LEVEL RISE ON NEAR-COASTAL RIVERINE REGIONS : A GEOSPATIAL COMPARISON OF THE SHATT AL-ARAB RIVER IN SOUTHERN IRAQ WITH THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA IN SOUTHERN LOUISIANA, USA.
There is a growing debate among scientists on how sea level rise (SLR) will impact coastal environments, particularly in countries where economic activities are sustained along these coasts. An important factor in this debate is how best to characterize coastal environmental impacts over time. This study investigates the measurement and modeling of SLR and effects on near-coastal riverine regions. The study uses a variety of data sources, including satellite imagery from 1975 to 2017, digital... Show moreThere is a growing debate among scientists on how sea level rise (SLR) will impact coastal environments, particularly in countries where economic activities are sustained along these coasts. An important factor in this debate is how best to characterize coastal environmental impacts over time. This study investigates the measurement and modeling of SLR and effects on near-coastal riverine regions. The study uses a variety of data sources, including satellite imagery from 1975 to 2017, digital elevation data and previous studies. This research is focusing on two of these important regions: southern Iraq along the Shatt Al-Arab River (SAR) and the southern United States in Louisiana along the Mississippi River Delta (MRD). These sites are important for both their extensive low-lying land and for their significant coastal economic activities. The dissertation consists of six chapters. Chapter one introduces the topic. Chapter two compares and contrasts bothregions and evaluates escalating SLR risk. Chapter three develops a coupled human and natural system (CHANS) perspective for SARR to reveal multiple sources of environmental degradation in this region. Alfa century ago SARR was an important and productive region in Iraq that produced fruits like dates, crops, vegetables, and fish. By 1975 the environment of this region began to deteriorate, and since then, it is well-documented that SARR has suffered under human and natural problems. In this chapter, I use the CHANS perspective to identify the problems, and which ones (human or natural systems) are especially responsible for environmental degradation in SARR. I use several measures of ecological, economic, and social systems to outline the problems identified through the CHANS framework. SARR has experienced extreme weather changes from 1975 to 2017 resulting in lower precipitation (-17mm) and humidity (-5.6%), higher temperatures (1.6 C), and sea level rise, which are affecting the salinity of groundwater and Shatt Al Arab river water. At the same time, human systems in SARR experienced many problems including eight years of war between Iraq and Iran, the first Gulf War, UN Security Council imposed sanctions against Iraq, and the second Gulf War. I modeled and analyzed the regions land cover between 1975 and 2017 to understand how the environment has been affected, and found that climate change is responsible for what happened in this region based on other factors. Chapter four constructs and applies an error propagation model to elevation data in the Mississippi River Delta region (MRDR). This modeling both reduces and accounts for the effects of digital elevation model (DEM) error on a bathtub inundation model used to predict the SLR risk in the region. Digital elevation data is essential to estimate coastal vulnerability to flooding due to sea level rise. Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) 1 Arc-Second Global is considered the best free global digital elevation data available. However, inundation estimates from SRTM are subject to uncertainty due to inaccuracies in the elevation data. Small systematic errors in low, flat areas can generate large errors in inundation models, and SRTM is subject to positive bias in the presence of vegetation canopy, such as along channels and within marshes. In this study, I conduct an error assessment and develop statistical error modeling for SRTM to improve the quality of elevation data in these at-risk regions. Chapter five applies MRDR-based model from chapter four to enhance the SRTM 1 Arc-Second Global DEM data in SARR. As such, it is the first study to account for data uncertainty in the evaluation of SLR risk in this sensitive region. This study transfers an error propagation model from MRDR to the Shatt al-Arab river region to understand the impact of DEM error on an inundation model in this sensitive region. The error propagation model involves three stages. First, a multiple regression model, parameterized from MRDR, is used to generate an expected DEM error surface for SARR. This surface is subtracted from the SRTM DEM for SARR to adjust it. Second, residuals from this model are simulated for SARR: these are mean-zero and spatially autocorrelated with a Gaussian covariance model matching that observed in MRDR by convolution filtering of random noise. More than 50 realizations of error were simulated to make sure a stable result was realized. These realizations were subtracted from the adjusted SRTM to produce DEM realizations capturing potential variation. Third, the DEM realizations are each used in bathtub modeling to estimate flooding area in the region with 1 m of sea level rise. The distribution of flooding estimates shows the impact of DEM error on uncertainty in inundation likelihood, and on the magnitude of total flooding. Using the adjusted DEM realizations 47 ± 2 percent of the region is predicted to flood, while using the raw SRTM DEM only 28% of the region is predicted to flood. Show less