Coastal catastrophes, whether produced by interactions between the hydrosphere and the atmosphere (storms) or by interactions between the lithosphere and the hydrosphere (tsunamis), ultimately present the greatest risk to human and natural landscapes. It is probably true that no one will ever die from sea level rise, but millions of people around the world live, work, and play in areas that are prone to the deadly impact of storms and tsunamis. Although modern meteorological equipment has been developed to the point where we now have good success at predicting major storms, our ability to detect and then respond to a tsunami event lags drastically behind. This is, in part, due to the speed at which tsunami waves propagate as well as the complex ways that waves reflect, refract, and interfere with one another as they move around land masses and across oceanic shelves.
As these phenomena are so incredibly damaging to human societies around the world each year, it is critical that scientists help promote public awareness and facilitate the development of plans to respond, react, and minimize human losses in the event of the inevitable. In the next few modules, we will explore, in more detail, the ideas of coastal zone resource management, managing risk, and planning for a more productive, safe, and less impactful future. Given that global warming processes produce more severe storms each year, coupled with the fact that sea level is rising at a more noticeable rate than ever before, many hard decisions have to be made in the future if we are to continue to enjoy the quality of life that comes from living on or near the coastline.
Reminder - Complete all of the Module 5 tasks!
You have reached the end of Module 5! Double-check the Module 5 Roadmap to make sure you have completed all of the activities listed there before you begin Module 6.
References and Further Reading
The following links are meant to provide suggestions for further investigation into some of the topics covered in Module 5.