A combination of natural and human factors are driving coastal change and making coastal regions and populations increasingly vulnerable. Sea level, a major agent of coastal erosion, has varied greatly from -120 m below present during glacial period low-stands to + 4 to 6 m above present during interglacial warm periods. Geologic and tide gauge data show that global sea level has risen about 12 to 15 cm during the past century with satellite measurements indicating an acceleration since the early 1990s due to thermal expansion and ice-sheet melting. Land subsidence due to tectonic forces and sediment compaction in regions like the mid-Atlantic and Louisiana increase the rate of relative sea-level rise to 40 cm to 100 cm per century. Sea- level rise is predicted to accelerate significantly in the near future due to climate change, resulting in pervasive impacts to coastal regions and putting populations increasingly at risk. The full implications of climate change for coastal systems need to be understood better and long-term plans are needed to manage coasts in order to protect natural resources and mitigate the effects of sea-level rise and increased storms on human infrastructure. Copyright ASCE 2008.
Additional Publication Details
Geologic effects and coastal vulnerability to sea-level rise, erosion, and storms