A Geospatial Dataset for U.S. Hurricane Storm Surge and Sea-level Rise Vulnerability: Development and Case Study Applications

Published in the ‘Climate Risk Management’ journal, this study presents the results of an effort to develop storm surge inundation layers for the eastern U.S. - a first pass assessment of exposure to hurricane storm surge and sea-level rise for the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts. The results include multiple inundation mapping overlays reflecting both hurricanes of different intensities as well as various scenarios of sea-level rise.

The report presents two case study applications of these hazard layers for coastal vulnerability assessment: (1) potential exposure of current energy infrastructure in the U.S. Southeast and (2) exposure of current and future housing along both the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. According to the report, the recent emergence of high resolution housing scenarios for the U.S. enable the consideration of changes in both biophysical factors such as sea-level rise and storm surge as well as socioeconomic conditions such as population growth and development. This also enables estimations of future societal exposure based on sea-level rise and population growth. 

According to the study, estimates of the number of Southeast electricity generation facilities potentially exposed to hurricane storm surge ranged from 69 to 291 for category 1 and category 5 storms, respectively. Sea-level rise increased the number of exposed facilities by 6-60%, depending on the sea-level rise scenario and the intensity of the hurricane under consideration.

Estimates of the number of housing units currently exposed to hurricane storm surge ranged from 4.1 to 9.4 million for category 1 and category 4 storms, respectively, while exposure for category 5 storms was estimated at 7.1 million due to the absence of landfalling category 5 hurricanes in the New England region. Housing exposure was projected to increase 83–230% by 2100 among different sea-level rise and housing scenarios, with the majority of this increase attributed to future housing development.

The case studies highlight the utility of geospatial hazard information for national level coastal exposure assessment, as well as the importance of future socio-economic development in the assessment of coastal vulnerability.

Publication Date: April 2014

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Megan C. Maloney
  • Benjamin L. Preston


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Climate science


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