Science Center Objects

Goals of this task include developing and improving coastal-change assessments and supporting long-term planning and decision making to ensure sustainable coastal economies, infrastructure, and ecosystems.

Oblique aerial photograph looking to the southwest along the southern end of Cedar Island, Virginia

Oblique aerial photograph looking to the southwest along the southern end of Cedar Island, Virginia. This area is experiencing long-term erosion rates greater than -3.0 meters per year. (Public domain.)

Chronic erosion is widespread along most open-ocean coastlines of the U.S. and is an increasing threat to growing coastal populations and associated infrastructure. Long-term coastal change can also impact natural coastal processes and affect sensitive coastal ecosystems. Understanding how the coast has changed in the past and what factors have influenced those changes guides our understanding of what may happen in the future.

As part of the National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards project, the USGS conducts studies of coastal change to better understand long-term coastal evolution and its response to factors such as the cumulative impact of storms, sea-level rise, changes in sediment supply, and human alterations over time periods spanning many decades. Goals of this project include developing and improving coastal-change assessments and supporting long-term planning and decision making to ensure sustainable coastal economies, infrastructure, and ecosystems.

Objectives

  • Develop methodology to produce and update nationally-consistent long-term coastal-change analyses that integrate historical data from sources such as maps and photographs with modern data sources such as lidar and satellites.
  • Produce a publically-available database of historical shoreline positions that is regularly updated as new data become available.
  • Identify and understand the  processes that affect long-term coastal change including geomorphology, human impacts, the cumulative impact of storms, and sea level rise.
Long-term shoreline change rates for several of the Virginia Barrier Islands

Long-term shoreline change rates for several of the Virginia Barrier Islands (left) and the historic shoreline position data used to calculate the rates (right) as viewed in the Coastal Change Hazards portal. (Public domain.)