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Practical tools for quantitative analysis of coastal vulnerability and sea level rise impacts—application in a Caribbean island and assessment of the 1.5 °C threshold


The quantitative analysis of hurricane impacts on coastal development in the Caribbean is surprisingly infrequent and many tools to assess physical vulnerability to sea level rise (SLR) are insufficient to evaluate risk in coastal areas exposed to wave attack during extreme events. This paper proposes a practical methodology to quantify coastal hazards and evaluate SLR impact scenarios in coastal areas, providing quantitative input for coastal vulnerability analysis. We illustrate the implementation of the proposed methodology with results from a site-specific analysis. We quantify how storm wave impacts penetrate farther inland and reach higher elevations for increasing SLR conditions. We also show that the increase in elevation of storm wave impacts is more than the nominal increase in mean sea level, and that elevation increase may be on the order of up to twice the nominal SLR. By developing design parameters for multiple scenarios, as opposed to the determination of a single SLR value for design established by consensus, this approach generates information that we argue encourages resilient design and embedding future adaptation in coastal design. We discuss how government planners and regulators, as well as real estate developers, lenders, and investors, can improve coastal planning and resilient design of coastal projects by using this approach.

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The authors acknowledge the invaluable support of Francis Way, PE and Heath Hansel, PE of Applied Technology & Management, Inc. They conducted the wave modeling studies for the consulting assignment used as case study, which was directed by the corresponding author. They provided the data for additional modeling and reviewed the case study description included herein. Matt Goodrich, PE, conducted the original storm surge modeling analysis used for the case study. We thank the confidential client of the consulting assignment, who authorized the use of all the site and model result data for this paper, with the only condition of confidentiality regarding the source and site.

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Correspondence to Esteban L. Biondi.

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Biondi, E.L., Guannel, G. Practical tools for quantitative analysis of coastal vulnerability and sea level rise impacts—application in a Caribbean island and assessment of the 1.5 °C threshold. Reg Environ Change 18, 2227–2236 (2018).

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  • Hurricane impacts
  • Sea level rise impacts
  • Coastal vulnerability
  • Sea level rise adaptation
  • Coastal zone management
  • Coastal development
  • Resilient design
  • Coastal resilience