Maps of a rising water table: The hidden component of sea level rise

Berkeley Distinguished Lectures in Data Science


December 4, 2018
4:10pm to 5:00pm
190 Doe Library
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Map-based data viewers have been available for several years that reveal where coastal flooding is likely to occur as oceans warm and ice sheets melt. Recently, geologists have begun to study the influence of sea level rise on groundwater, and have concluded that in some coastal areas, as much or more land could flood as a result of rising groundwater than will flood directly from saltwater. Yet almost no coastal areas have maps available of depth to the water table, below which soils are saturated with water. My students and I have recently made a map of depth to the water table around San Francisco Bay, and this map reveals previously unrecognized vulnerabilities to sea level rise. By taking groundwater into account, we have revealed some potential problems with adaptation that relies on seawalls and levees alone, and developed an alternative strategy for urban areas that might allow us to live with higher water. This talk will present both the new maps of coastal groundwater depth and some strategies for urban adaptation.

The Berkeley Distinguished Lectures in Data Science, co-hosted by the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) and the Berkeley Division of Data Sciences, features Berkeley faculty doing visionary research that illustrates the character of the ongoing data revolution.  This lecture series is offered to engage our diverse campus community and enrich active connections among colleagues.  All campus community members are welcome and encouraged to attend. Arrive at 3:30 PM for light refreshments and discussion prior to the formal presentation.


Kristina Hill

Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning and Urban Design
UC Berkeley

Kristina Hill is an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Hill studies urban ecology and hydrology in relationship to physical design and social justice issues. Her primary area of work is in adapting urban districts and shorezones to the new challenges associated with climate change.

In the past, she helped to develop new ideas for urban water system design that support salmon health in the Pacific Northwest. Her involvement as a citizen in urban system advocacy led her to serve as the head of a transit agency in Seattle, after helping to found that agency as a volunteer board member.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she became a member of the Dutch-American engineering and design team that developed New Orleans water management strategy. She continues to collaborate internationally to understand the potential for designs to help protect coastal communities as sea levels rise.

Prof. Hill currently focuses her research on adaptation and coastal design in the San Francisco Bay Area, but engages in comparative studies in the US Mid-Atlantic, Europe, and Hawaii. Professor Hill lectures internationally on urban design and ecology. Before coming to Berkeley, she served as chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of Virginia. Her book, Ecology and Design: Frameworks for Learning, was published by Island Press in 2002, and her current book project proposes adapting urban waterfronts to climate change while incorporating productive ecosystems.

She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University, and was a member of the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Washington in Seattle, and the University of Virginia before coming to California. She was honored as a Fellow of the Urban Design Institute in New York, and has conducted research in Stockholm, Sweden, as a Fulbright Scholar.