Creeping disaster along the U.S. coastline: Understanding exposure to sea level rise and hurricanes through historical development

Anna E. Braswell, Stefan Leyk, Dylan S. Connor, Johannes H. Uhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Current estimates of U.S. property at risk of coastal hazards and sea level rise (SLR) are staggering-evaluated at over a trillion U.S. dollars. Despite being enormous in the aggregate, potential losses due to SLR depend on mitigation, adaptation, and exposure and are highly uneven in their distribution across coastal cities. We provide the first analysis of how changes in exposure (how and when) have unfolded over more than a century of coastal urban development in the United States. We do so by leveraging new historical settlement layers from the Historical Settlement Data Compilation for the U.S. (HISDAC-US) to examine building patterns within and between the SLR zones of the conterminous United States since the early twentieth century. Our analysis reveals that SLR zones developed faster and continue to have higher structure density than non-coastal, urban, and inland areas. These patterns are particularly prominent in locations affected by hurricanes. However, density levels in historically less-developed coastal areas are now quickly converging on early settled SLR zones, many of which have reached building saturation. These "saturation effects"suggest that adaptation polices targeting existing buildings and developed areas are likely to grow in importance relative to the protection of previously undeveloped land.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0269741
JournalPloS one
Volume17
Issue number8 August
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Creeping disaster along the U.S. coastline: Understanding exposure to sea level rise and hurricanes through historical development'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this