Influence of Potential Sea Level Rise on Societal Vulnerability to Hurricane Storm-Surge Hazards in Sarasota County, Florida

This article, published in the journal 'Applied Geography' in 2010, discusses how socio-economic vulnerability to hurricanes will be exacerbated by sea-level rise.  The study looked at the potential effect of sea-level rise on community vulnerability to future hurricanes.  The authors assessed variations in socio-economic exposure in Sarasota County, FL, between current risks from storm-surge hazards and storm-surges enhanced by sea level rise under different climate change scenarios. The article analysis shows that significant populations, economic activity, and critical facilities are in current and future hurricane storm-surge hazard zones.

The analysis concluded that by adding sea-level rise to current storm-surge hazard zones, the added exposure of populations and asset (infrastructure, natural resources, etc) is equal to or greater than what would be in the hazard zone of the next higher storm (as categorized by the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale). There is variability among communities for this increased exposure, with greater increases in socio-economic exposure due to the addition of sea level rise to storm-surge hazard zones as one progresses south along the shoreline. The study compared current and future hurricane risks to Sarasota County's 2050 comprehensive land-use plan to determine whether residential, economic and infrastructure development in the County could increase societal exposure to hurricane storm-surge hazards.

The objective of this research is to determine if and how sea-level rise predictions may alter the potential socioeconomic impacts of future storms and how these impacts may vary among communities. Information and methods presented here further the dialogue on understanding societal risk to sea level rise and hurricane storm-surge hazards and can be used by land-use planners in their efforts to balance population growth and community resilience to these hazards.


Publication Date: December 2010

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Tim G. Frazier
  • Nathan Wood
  • Brent Yarnal
  • Denise H. Bauer

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Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Case study

States Affected:


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