Coasts are paramount to our nation’s economic prosperity, sustainability and national security. U.S. coastal ports handle more than $700 billion in merchandise annually. Coastal fisheries and seafood generate more than $200B per year and support more than a million jobs in both commercial and recreational sectors (NOAA, 2016). Nationwide, retail expenditures on recreational boating exceed $30 billion. Critically, 1,774 military sites across the globe depend on the stability of 153,646 kilometers (95,471 miles) of coastline (Center for Climate and Security, 2016).
Coastal areas have a population density that is six times greater than corresponding inland counties and growing rapidly (National Ocean Service, 2017). According to the U.S. 3rd National Climate Assessment, as of 2014, 164 million people - more than 50% of the US population - live coastal counties inclusive of the Great Lakes shorelines with another 1.2 million people moving to these areas each year (NCA3, 2014). US economic activity has been shown to be overwhelmingly concentrated in its ocean and Great Lakes coastal urban areas (Rappaport and Sachs, 2003)
Environmental phenomena of terrestrial, oceanic, and atmospheric origin are constantly changing coastal landscapes can affect human habitats and infrastructure. Sea-level rise will cause serious economic, social and environmental impacts to coastlines around the globe. Since 1900, global mean sea level has risen by 7-8 inches, with about 3 inches occurring since 1993 (Folger, 2016) (USGCRP, 2017). Research has shown that all coastal cities will see some impacts of global sea level rise (Larour, 2017).
Climate change is leading to warming seas, causing about half the eustatic sea level rise and impacting precipitation patterns which alter coastal hydrology and ecosystems. In 2017, Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma set damage records totaling $265 billion (Smith, 2018).
Devastating earthquakes, tsunamis, and landslides occur at subduction zones, five of which exist along coastlines in the U.S. and its territories. In 1964, the most powerful earthquake in U.S. history occurred in Alaska, causing 129 deaths and $2.38 billion in property losses, mostly resulting from tsunamis caused by local undersea landslides (USGS, 2017).
Vulnerabilities in public transportation, infrastructure, and housing underscore the growing international exposure to extreme weather events, sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and tectonic hazards. Scientific research into complex coastal systems and the interplay with coastal hazards is vital for predicting, responding to and mitigating threats in these regions.
The complex interface between coastal processes/hazards and people requires strong partnerships between state and Federal agencies. Through these partnerships coastal vulnerabilities can be addressed through a variety of practical actions including: sustainable planning; active mitigation of impacts prior to, and after, events; and by accounting for predictable slowly occurring processes at longer temporal and spatial scales.
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