Coastal Hazards

Fourteen million people live, work and play along the Gulf Coast — an area particularly vulnerable to two major coastal hazards: tropical cyclones and sea-level rise coupled with land subsidence, which takes place when large amounts of groundwater (and oil and gas) are withdrawn from certain types of rocks and the land compacts and “sinks.” In Louisiana, subsidence is also occurring as the Delta compacts and because of the lack of sedimentation caused by anthropogenic changes to the flow of the Mississippi River. Subsidence enhances the relative sea-level rise and increases flooding risks — especially for coastal communities.

And, with its 25,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines and more than 4,000 oil and gas platforms, the Gulf Coast is also vulnerable to contaminant spills — as evidenced by the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon, the largest man-made disaster in the nation’s history that released an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.

The solution to mitigating the effects of storm events, sea-level rise and contaminant spills is
to create more resilient communities, with easy access to current, reliable information, and to
provide better models and tools that help track spills. To create more resilient communities, we
need to:

  • Improve hurricane intensity and other storm estimates and tracking for improved evacuation
  • Develop better maps for storm surge, inundation flooding and runoff;
  • Increase knowledge of rip currents, surf-zone dynamics and shoreline currents;
  • Monitor shoreline changes over time;
  • Increase knowledge of ocean currents, both at the surface and at depth.

Goal 1

Improve real-time and on-demand ocean observations and model forecasts.

Goal 2

Develop a fully funded real-time reporting system of observations to provide actionable
intelligence in support of emergency operations for mitigating coastal hazards.