Estimating the United States Population at Risk from Coastal Flood-Related Hazards

  • Mark Crowell
  • Jonathan Westcott
  • Susan Phelps
  • Tucker Mahoney
  • Kevin Coulton
  • Doug Bellomo
Chapter
Part of the Coastal Research Library book series (COASTALRL, volume 1000)

Abstract

Over the past couple of decades a number of papers have been published that provide estimates of United States population living in coastal areas. These estimates vary widely; ranging from less than 5%, to more than 50% of the U.S. population living in coastal areas. The reason for the wide range in estimates is that there are a variety of criteria that can be combined in a number of permutations to define “coastal areas.” For example, coastal areas may be defined based on probability of coastal flooding, inundation caused by future changes in sea levels, or simply by proximity to the coastline itself. In addition, spatial buffers, such as geopolitical units (e.g., counties and census block groups), or prescribed distances (e.g., 50- or 100-mile distance buffers), can also be used to provide a measure of uncertainty associated with economic exposure, or with measurement error. Other types and categories of defining criteria can be used to further characterize coastal areas. In this chapter we focused our attention on estimating U.S. population at risk from the 1% annual chance coastal flood. The 1% annual chance flood (both coastal and riverine) is used by FEMA in the administration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The methods used in this analysis followed those of Crowell et al. (J Coast Res 26:201–211, 2010) who used a three-step process to determine coastal population: (1) create a national digital flood hazard database using FEMA (or FEMA-derived) datasets; (2) use a systematic method to separate coastal from riverine flood hazard areas; and (3) combine 2010 census block group data (assuming uniform population distribution) with the digital coastal flood hazard database using a geographic information system. The results of this analysis indicate that approximately 2.8% of the U.S. population lives in areas directly subject to 1% chance coastal flood. In addition, a total of 395 counties were found to be contiguous with the ocean or Great Lakes coast and/or have at least some coastal flood hazard areas (as based on the 1% annual chance coastal flood) located within their boundaries. About 39% of the U.S. population lives in these “coastal” counties.

Keywords

Storm Surge Flood Hazard Federal Emergency Management Agency Coastal Population Coastal Flood 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the following people for their review and comment on this chapter: Darryl Hatheway, Paul Rooney, Erin Walsh, and Theresa Goedeke.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Crowell
    • 1
  • Jonathan Westcott
    • 1
  • Susan Phelps
    • 2
  • Tucker Mahoney
    • 3
  • Kevin Coulton
    • 4
  • Doug Bellomo
    • 1
  1. 1.Federal Emergency Management AgencyArlingtonUSA
  2. 2.AECOMGreensboroUSA
  3. 3.Federal Emergency Management AgencyAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.AECOMPortlandUSA

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