Section 2: Introduction to Coastal Zone Hazards: Long and Short-term Processes of Change and Their Impacts on Society



The principal focus of Section 2 is to build on our understanding of coastal processes as covered in Unit 1 in order to explore in more detail the hazards that impact coastlines and their communities. Our primary emphases will be on the following topical areas:

  • understanding sea level change (Module 4)
  • coastal catastrophes including storms and tsunamis (Module 5)
  • impact of coastal processes on societies and economics of coastal regions (Module 6)

Section Goals

The over-arching goals of Section 2 include our hope that students will:

  • develop the fundamental geospatial (linking geography and geology) skills and concepts needed to assess the coastal processes and hazards discussed in this course;
  • link geologic time and current shoreline processes in order to explain the past and present evolution of coastline morphology.

Section Objectives

In order to reach these goals, the instructors have established the following learning objectives for student learning. In working through the modules within Section 2, students will be able to:

  • locate and use key datasets (tide records, storm data, etc.) to analyze various scales of coastal processes, including global and regional sea level change, storms, and tsunamis, and their impact on coastal landforms and communities;
  • describe geologic and climatic hazards that shape coastal landscapes and impact local and global sea levels;
  • differentiate modern sea level position in the context of sea level change over geologic time, and contextualize driving factors responsible for sea level change;
  • differentiate the spatial scales over which coastal processes (tides, currents, storms, tectonics, climate change, etc.) operate and impact coastal landforms;
  • discriminate the causes (and interplay of causes) of local, regional, and global sea level change and associated impacts on coastal systems;
  • analyze coastal impact case studies of actual coastal hazards (tropical and extratropical storms, tsunamis, coastal flooding, erosion, etc.).


In this section, you will access real data sets and visualizations to aid your learning. You will also be asked to answer Learning Check Point questions, which are for you to test your own comprehension. You are encouraged to answer them and check your answers against provided answers. For the Labs in this section, you will access, download, interpret, and compare historic tide data from several locations and use the NOAA sea level rise viewer to forecast future sea level positions to better formulate potential risks to these locations in the future.