Our Nation’s Coasts – Take a Tour

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The USGS  is excited to present a series of Coastal Change Hazards geonarratives that will take you on a journey to learn more about coastal change and the related research we conduct across our Nation’s coasts.  

Our coasts are invaluable.  They can be a relaxing place where people live and play.  They are also productive ecosystem habitats that provide livelihoods and economic support for many.  Coastlines are also dynamic places where changes pose hazards to human lives and infrastructure if placed too close.  When given space to move and respond, our natural coastal systems can actually protect coastal communities from potential hazards. The USGS created this collection of Coastal Change Hazards geonarratives to take you on a journey to explore the various elements of coastal change. 

Photo from up high on the coastal bluff, of a beach with a coral reef and lots of visitors in the water and on the sand.

 Coastal areas are places of beauty which can support the economy through tourism. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is located along the southeast coast of the Island of Oʻahu, Hawaii. It is known for its abundance of marine life and is a popular snorkeling location.

The overarching geonarrative, “Our Coasts,” first introduces you to the beauty and significance of our Nation’s coastal environments and why it is crucial to understand the impacts and risks associated with coastal change. From there, you can explore other topics in more detail, such as barrier islands, coastal storms, shoreline change, forecasting coastal change, and the role of coral reefs in the coastal environment. Each geonarrative will allow you to learn more about how specific tools help us better understand coastal hazards and the environmental drivers of these hazards, and enhance our ability to reduce risks along our Nation’s coasts.  

View of Grand Bay, Mississippi marsh in April 2017 from the water

 Coastlines host various types of habitats and ecosystems, such as this marsh shoreline in Grand Bay, Mississippi. 

The products described in these geonarratives have been designed to help coastal communities, managers and other stakeholders better understand the complex dynamics of coastal systems. Our data, models, and tools help users visualize potential coastal change hazards, such as storms and sea-level rise, and better plan for their associated impacts. Explore the tools we’ve developed to describe the coast, how the coast may change over time, and the potential hazards associated with these changes. Our goal is to empower local coastal managers to increase public safety, mitigate physical damages, and effectively manage resources in complex coastal settings. 

View from the sky of a jagged coastline with many roads, houses, a park, and other buildings nearby.

Coastal counties of the U.S. are home to over 127 million people, or almost 40 percent of the nation's total population. Natural Bridges State Beach, shown here in the middle of the photo, is surrounded by coastal neighborhoods in the southwestern part of Santa Cruz, California. 

(Credit: Laura Torresan. Photo by Laura Torresan)

These geonarratives are akin to an online story book. The interactive web pages allow the user to explore content by scrolling through a series of maps, photos, and engaging information about our research and tools. While scrolling, interactive maps will appear. Click the “Explore Map” tab in the bottom right to investigate the spatial data in more detail!  

Cape Cod coast

 Aerial photo of Cape Cod coast taken by the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center Aerial Image and Mapping team. 

Whatever the coast may mean to you - whether it’s your livelihood, a critical habitat for your favorite creatures, or a relaxing place to visit - the importance of the coast is indisputable. We hope you find these geonarratives engaging, inspiring, and useful for you and your community.   

Science Stories

Our Coasts 

Barrier Islands  

Coastal Storms 

National Shoreline Change 

Real-time Forecasts of Coastal Change 

The Role of US Coral Reefs in Coastal Protection 

Related Content

Filter Total Items: 6
Date published: June 17, 2020

The Role of U.S. Coral Reefs in Coastal Protection

U.S. Geological Survey research on flood protection provided by coral reefs. This is a story map that introduces research to understand the role of US coral reefs in coastal protection.

Date published: June 17, 2020

Coastal Storms

U.S. Geological Survey scientists study our coasts to understand how they respond to storms today. But rising sea levels and a changing climate will alter these natural cycles in the future. This geonarrative features research used to predict flooding now and into the future. 

Date published: June 17, 2020

National Shoreline Change

Exploring Shoreline Positions of the United States From the 1800s To The Present. Beach erosion is a chronic problem for many coastal areas of the United States. This geonarrative explains how the USGS derives shorelines from various data
sources, and how shoreline change rates are generated from these data.

Date published: June 17, 2020

Real-Time Forecasts of Coastal Change

U.S. Geological Survey researchers develop tools to forecast coastal change hazards. This geonarrative features research and tools developed to forecast real-time coastal change.

Date published: June 17, 2020

Barrier Islands

U.S. Geological Survey Researchers Monitor Barrier Islands.  This geonarrative features research used to monitor Barrier islands which are narrow stretches of sand deposited parallel to the shoreline, are inherently valuable ecosystems. They protect estuaries and lagoons that help reduce coastal erosion, purify the water, and provide habitat for fish and birds.

Date published: June 17, 2020

Our Coasts

USGS Coastal Change Hazards research provides scientific tools to protect lives, property, and the economic well being of the Nation. The mission of the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Program is to provide research and tools to protect lives, property, and the economic well-being of the Nation. This is a story map that introduces the value of our coasts and the threats they face with global change.