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Assessing coastal vulnerability to disaster through the built environment

Authors: Anna Braswell*, University of Colorado, Stefan Leyk , University of Colorado Boulder, Dylan Connor , Arizona State University
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: natural hazards, built environment, sea level rise
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Population growth and expansion along coastlines is believed to be exacerbating the exposure of vulnerable communities to sea level rise. This heightened exposure of built structures and people to natural hazards raises concerns about future development, degradation of coastal ecosystems and mitigation for vulnerable places. We contend that existing projections of population vulnerability insufficiently characterize the built environment and as a result, mischaracterize the likely impacts of sea level rise. This issue largely reflects the challenges in systematically measuring the built environment and incorporating such data into classifications of hazard risk and exposure. In this article, we use future sea level rise zones produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a novel housing data set from Zillow that spans 150 million housing records from pre-1900 to 2015 to assess how the built environment (e.g. structure age, foundation type, building material) relates to community vulnerability. Our results reveal new urban and regional hotspots of built environment vulnerability, which have important implications for how we assess future community vulnerability. Specifically, our work helps elucidate how and why coastal areas will develop in the future, and will inform salient perceptions of risk in coastal areas.

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