Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society

Summary and Final Tasks


Summary and Final Tasks


We have introduced the three dimensions of vulnerability – exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity – with a focus on coastal disaster contexts. In addition to showing how to quantify these dimensions of vulnerability, we have also shown how this model of vulnerability can be used to assess and compare the physical and social vulnerabilities of different coastal settings and populations. In the activity at the end of this module, you explored how the vulnerability model can be used to compare the vulnerability of three coastal communities to hurricanes. The case studies were meant to help you think about sensitivity as a component of vulnerability. Sensitivity can be related to physical factors, such as age and quality of infrastructure, as in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and Florida mobile home examples, or it can be related to social factors, as in the Indian Ocean tsunami example. Although lessons from each of these examples are generalizable in the broad sense, it is important to think about vulnerability, including sensitivity, in a place-specific, localized manner. For example, issues related to mobile home sensitivity to hurricanes, although relevant in many parts of Florida, are not relevant to all places exposed to hurricanes. Likewise, many countries that are exposed to tsunami hazards either do not use nuclear energy or do not have any plants in tsunami hazard zones. In these places, the lessons of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster are only applicable in the generalized sense, i.e., that seawalls should be high enough to protect key resources from the highest waves likely to occur based on current science, and that critical resources requiring electrical power incorporate redundancy.

In the following modules, we will apply the concept of vulnerability to three kinds of coastal hazards: tsunamis, hurricanes, and sea level rise. We will also discuss policies in relation to those hazards. While tsunamis and hurricane hazards are short-term hazards that exist a few hours to several days, sea level rise is a medium- to long-term hazard that shows its impacts slowly over decades. We will discuss tsunamis and hurricane hazards, the two short-term hazards in the next module, and discuss sea level rise, the medium- to long-term hazard, in the following module.

Reminder - Complete all of the Module 11 tasks!

You have reached the end of Module 11! Double-check the to-do list in the Module 11 Roadmap to make sure you have completed all of the activities listed there before you begin Module 12.

References and Further Reading

  • Frazier, T. G., N. Wood, B. Yarnal, and D. H. Bauer. 2010. Influence of potential sea level rise on societal vulnerability to hurricane storm-surge hazards, Sarasota County, Florida. Applied Geography 30 (4):490–505.
  • Polsky, C., R. Neff, and B. Yarnal. 2007. Building comparable global change vulnerability assessments: the vulnerability scoping diagram. Global Environmental Change 17 (3):472–485.
  • Yarnal, B. 2007. Vulnerability and all that jazz: Addressing vulnerability in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Technology in Society 29 (2):249–255.