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Development and application of a coastal change likelihood assessment for the northeast region, Maine to Virginia

February 28, 2023

Coastal resources are increasingly affected by erosion, extreme weather events, sea level rise, tidal flooding, and other potential hazards related to climate change. These hazards have varying effects on coastal landscapes because of the compounding of geologic, oceanographic, ecologic, and socioeconomic factors that exist at a given location. An assessment framework is introduced in this report that synthesizes existing datasets that cover the variability of the landscape, and hazards that may act on the landscape, to evaluate the likelihood of coastal change along the U.S. coastline on a decadal scale. The pilot study that aided in the development of the framework was run in the northeastern United States (from Maine to Virginia) and consists of datasets derived from a variety of Federal, State, and local sources.

First, a decision-tree-based dataset was built that describes the resistance or integrity of the coastal landscape (called the fabric dataset for the purposes of this report) and includes land cover, elevation, slope, long-term (more than 50 years) shoreline change, dune height, and marsh stability data. A second database was generated from coastal hazards, which are divided into event hazards (for example, flooding, wave power, and probability of storm overwash) and persistent or perpetual hazards (for example, relative sea level rise rate, short-term [about 30-year] shoreline erosion rate, and storm recurrence interval). The fabric dataset was then merged with the coastal hazards databases, and a model training dataset made up of hundreds of polygons was generated from these combined data to support machine learning.

The pilot study resulted in location-specific, 10-meter-resolution data classified into five raster datasets that include intrinsic characteristics of the coast used to determine the resistance of the landscape to change, the persistent and event hazards that act on the coast, the machine learning output (coastal change likelihood) based on the cumulative effects of the fabric and hazards datasets, and an estimate of the hazard type (event or persistent) that is the most likely to influence coastal change. Final outcomes are intended to be used as a first-order planning tool to determine which areas of the coast are more likely to change in response to future potential coastal hazards and to examine elements and drivers that make change in a location more likely.

Publication Year 2023
Title Development and application of a coastal change likelihood assessment for the northeast region, Maine to Virginia
DOI 10.3133/dr1169
Authors Elizabeth A. Pendleton, Erika Lentz, Travis K. Sterne, Rachel E. Henderson
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Data Report
Series Number 1169
Index ID dr1169
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center