San Francisco Hydrologist Recognized for Expertise in Assessing Sea Level Rise

Published Aug. 26, 2016

San Francisco -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hydrologist Patrick O’Brien has been awarded the agency’s Climate Champion award for his expertise in assessing how sea level rise will affect vulnerable infrastructure. 

O’Brien was recognized for his knowledge about climate change which has been instrumental in guiding basic engineering decisions for Corps projects that could be affected by rising seas.  This includes helping the agency determine the best ways to ensure that tax payer-funded projects can be engineered to withstand predictions that sea levels in California coastal regions could rise by several feet over the next 50 years, with the South San Francisco Bay shoreline at particular risk.       

A 20 year veteran of the Corps, O’Brien has long been a leading expert on climate change so much so that his research has been incorporated into the Corps’ national policy on global sea level rise.  “Patrick is a nationally known expert on climate change and sea level rise who is routinely called upon to support not only the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but other government agencies and academia,” said LTC John C. Morrow, commander of the Corps’ San Francisco district.  

O’Brien’s unique skills, Morrow said, have had a tremendous impact on projects considered crucial to the welfare of millions of Bay Area residents.  “He provided critical expertise on the South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Study, the first USACE project in the nation to incorporate climate change and sea level rise analysis,” Morrow added, referring to a landmark project underway by the San Francisco district to help protect the Bay Area – home to some of the world’s most valuable companies – from the risks associated with sea level rise including catastrophic flooding.  Millions of people, homes and businesses in the region could be at risk in coming years if the most dire climate change predictions are realized. 

The Climate Champion award is part of a Corps program honoring significant contributions made to environmental preservation and energy efficiency.  Those recognized will be considered for the Presidential GreenGov Awards, established to celebrate achievement in sustainability and environmental stewardship across the federal government.