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Vulnerability of population and transportation infrastructure at the east bank of Delaware Bay due to coastal flooding in sea-level rise conditions

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Catastrophic flooding associated with sea-level rise and change of hurricane patterns has put the northeastern coastal regions of the United States at a greater risk. In this paper, we predict coastal flooding at the east bank of Delaware Bay and analyze the resulting impact on residents and transportation infrastructure. The three-dimensional coastal ocean model FVCOM coupled with a two-dimensional shallow water model is used to simulate hydrodynamic flooding from coastal ocean water with fine-resolution meshes, and a topography-based hydrologic method is applied to estimate inland flooding due to precipitation. The entire flooded areas with a range of storm intensity (i.e., no storm, 10-, and 50-year storm) and sea-level rise (i.e., current, 10-, and 50-year sea level) are thus determined. The populations in the study region in 10 and 50 years are predicted using an economic-demographic model. With the aid of ArcGIS, detailed analysis of affected population and transportation systems including highway networks, railroads, and bridges is presented for all of the flood scenarios. It is concluded that sea-level rise will lead to a substantial increase in vulnerability of residents and transportation infrastructure to storm floods, and such a flood tends to affect more population in Cape May County but more transportation facilities in Cumberland County, New Jersey.

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The work presented in this paper is sponsored by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration of the US Department of Transportation through the University Transportation Centers program. Partial support from NOAA CREST is also acknowledged. The authors are grateful to Mr. Brian O’Connor at Planning Department of Cape May County, New Jersey, for data information and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions.

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Correspondence to Han Song Tang.

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Tang, H.S., Chien, S.I., Temimi, M. et al. Vulnerability of population and transportation infrastructure at the east bank of Delaware Bay due to coastal flooding in sea-level rise conditions. Nat Hazards 69, 141–163 (2013).

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  • Sea-level rise
  • Coastal flooding
  • Prediction
  • Vulnerability
  • Population
  • Transportation infrastructure