Greenland, NH –  This year’s climate summit brought together 120+ people from around Seacoast, New Hampshire who work across different sectors that intersect with climate change impacts and the need to adapt on the coast. Speakers and participants shared their experiences in the field, learned about new research, and took in lessons learned from recently completed projects. CAW members’ heads are bursting with new information, and we’re fervently expanding our to-do lists, but we stopped for a second in the wake of the 7th New Hampshire Coastal Climate Summit to reflect on some major takeaways.

#1 | Terminology matters

Jamie Carter from NOAA shows the spatial extent of high tide flooding in the Hampton-Seabrook Area

Jamie Carter from NOAA made a good point about the terminology we use – NOAA is moving away from using the term “nuisance flooding” and instead using “high-tide flooding” because this type of flooding is more than just a nuisance, annoyance, or irritation – it can be really devastating. The terms we use matter–they can alienate or encourage stakeholders and potential partners to engage in this work.

-Lisa Graichen, New Hampshire Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension


#2 | Help will always be given in coastal NH to those who ask for it.

Ten points to Hufflepuff if you caught this Harry Potter reference. The Summit featured municipalities who recognized their vulnerabilities; acted by seeking grant support and technical assistance from regional planning commissions, state, and federal entities; and then inspired neighboring communities to act too!

For example, the University of New Hampshire and Strafford Regional Planning Commission partnered with the Town of Newmarket to obtain a small grant from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) to better understand the hidden threat that groundwater rise (caused by sea-level rise) poses to properties. Newmarket incorporated the results into future planning priorities and inspired the Town of Durham to apply for funding for a similar project!

-Vidya Balasubramanyam, NHDES Coastal Program

Jayne Knott from UNH shows groundwater rise maps for the Town of Newmarket

#3 | Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. 

Adapting to climate change, whether changing individual behaviors or adopting regulations in a community is a long game. It is all too easy to be overwhelmed by the list of recommended actions and adaptation strategies. But the presentations at the Summit showed that the first step toward progress is to start. 

Nathalie Morison, from NHDES, presents state and local actions that came out of the Coastal Risks and Hazards Commission’s report

We heard examples of adaptation progress from Nathalie Morison, Coastal Resilience Specialist with the NHDES Coastal Program. Her presentation highlighted advancements in adaptation including climate chapters in Master Plans, floodplain ordinances, and stormwater management regulations.

We learned that in May, Durham, NH approved an ordinance requiring an additional two feet of freeboard for building elevation above the base flood elevation; recommending (not requiring) compliance with the standards in a new flood district based on an advisory climate change map for projected sea-level rise of four feet. These steps toward resilience  – especially incremental ones – are worth celebration!

-Abigail Lyon, Piscataqua Regional Estuaries Partnership

#4 | There are still some surprising effects of climate change

Groundwater Rise (Strawbery Banke Museum and ClearEye Photography)

Strawbery Banke Museum and ClearEye Photography

Like Jayne Knott’s work on sea level effects on the ground water table of the seacoast, Dr. Tom Lippmann’s work of the effects that rising sea levels will have on currents in our tidally influenced rivers was eye opening. His research team’s models show that our already-speedy currents could double in the event of high sea-level rise and a coastal storm. 

Every time I think I have a pretty good handle on how the changing climate will affect us, new work like this forces me to take a step back and ask: What else do we need to consider in our work to build resilience?

-Steve Miller, CAW Co-Chair and Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

#5 | Summ(it)ing it all up.


“I am impressed as to how the communities are very engaged and taking action; researchers keep bringing eye opening new information into the conversation, and how private facilities like Strawbery Banke are taking steps to document changes and to educate the public. The best part about the Summit for me is that we are moving forward together and our congressional delegation is there constantly supporting our efforts.”

-Sherry Godlewski, CAW Co-Chair and NHDES