5 Coastal Hazards: Storms and Tsunamis

Adam D. Switzer

Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Nanyang Avenue, Singapore

5.1 Coastal hazards

Although the coastal zone constitutes a relatively minor portion of the Earth’s land area, it accommodates more than 60% of the world’s population, with many more billions of people relying on the resources these regions provide. These figures are impressive even at first glance. However, when one considers that many coasts around the world are inaccessible or not comfortably habitable, only then does the true importance of the coast in terms of human vulnerability become apparent. This is particularly the case along sub-tropical and temperate coasts as they have above-average concentrations of people and economic activity.

People, industries, infrastructure and ecological systems along coasts are vulnerable to a number of natural hazards, some of which have, or will, become more serious with changing climate. Climate change is likely to affect rainfall and climate patterns, potentially intensifying and changing seasonal patterns and frequency of storms. Sea-level rise associated with climate change will also impact on, and reduce the stability and relative height of, natural barriers to marine inundation, such as by eroding dune systems.

Despite a long history of disasters, and the projections of increasing hazards under a changing climate, coastal development continues unabated, leaving many communities ...

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