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USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program

Research Themes: Understanding Coastal Change

houses on Fire Island damaged by Hurricane Sandy
Many ocean-front homes on Fire Island, New York, were damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Sandy. [larger version]

Coastal change poses potential risk to coastal communities across the nation. Powerful storms generate surge, waves and currents that can move large amounts of sediment, destroy roads, buildings and other critical infrastructure as well as alter natural habitats. The USGS performs a range of studies that document, assess and model coastal change, risk, and vulnerability including historical shoreline change and the geologic structure and history of coastal regions, sediment supply and transport, sea-level rise, and how extreme storm events affect rates and impacts of coastal change.

Use the tabs below to see current research related to Understanding Coastal Change or see all Research Themes.

  • National Studies
  • Regional Studies
  • Applied Science
Coastal Change ProcessesCoastal Change Processes
Investigating interactions between the shoreline, nearshore, and offshore sediment transport processes driving coastal change; and developing capabilities to predict impacts.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Regional Study)
Assessment of Physical Changes in Barrier Islands and Coastal Wetlands Associated with Hurricane SandyAssessment of Physical Changes in Barrier Islands and Coastal Wetlands Associated with Hurricane Sandy
Integrating wetland assessments with existing coastal-change hazard assessments for the adjacent dunes and beaches to create a more comprehensive look at coastal ecosystem vulnerability.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Regional Study, Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study, Regional Study, Applied Science)
Carolina Coastal Change ProcessesCarolina Coastal Change Processes
Investigating how shoreline, near-shore, and offshore sediment transport processes drive coastal change in the Carolinas through combined use of geophysical surveys, oceanographic studies, and predictive models.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Regional Study, Applied Science)
National Assessment of Coastal Change HazardsNational Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards
Assessing vulnerability of the Nation's coasts to storms, sea-level rise, and sediment transport processes by understanding and predicting the ways our coasts have changed and continue to change.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study), Geologic Hazards and Catastrophic Events (National Study)
National Assessment of Shoreline ChangeNational Assessment of Shoreline Change
Creating a comprehensive, regionally-consistent analysis of shoreline movement over the short and long term, including historical and modern shorelines.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study), Geologic Hazards and Catastrophic Events (National Study, Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study)
Sea-Level Rise Hazards and Decision SupportSea-Level Rise Hazards and Decision Support
Using combined scientific expertise in geology, hydrology, geography, biology, and ecology to understand and address the effects of sea-level rise on the Nation's coasts.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Applied Science), Geologic Hazards and Catastrophic Events (National Study, Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study)
Fluxes to estuarine and coastal environmentsFluxes to estuarine and coastal environments
Using interdisciplinary science that combines observations and numerical modeling to evaluate possible future environmental changes in tidal wetlands, estuaries and coasts.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Applied Science), Ocean Resources for America's Needs (National Study, Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study, Applied Science)
Sea and Lake Floor MappingSea and Lake Floor Mapping
Providing research programs with technical expertise and innovations in seafloor mapping production.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Applied Science), Ocean Resources for America's Needs (Regional Study)
Marine Aggregate Resources and ProcessesMarine Aggregate Resources and Processes
Providing information about offshore aggregate deposits such as grain size, composition, and extent, to support resource and habitat assessments, and sustainability.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Applied Science), Ocean Resources for America's Needs (National Study, Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study)
National Seafloor Mapping and Benthic Habitat Studies: AtlanticNational Seafloor Mapping and Benthic Habitat Studies: Atlantic
Monitoring and assessing diverse marine habitats at Stellwagen and Georges Banks to preserve and support a large fishing industry.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study), Ocean Resources for America's Needs (Regional Study), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study)
National Seafloor Mapping and Benthic Habitat Studies: PacificNational Seafloor Mapping and Benthic Habitat Studies: Pacific
Collecting seafloor samples, video, and sonar data to produce maps and geologic information for marine resource management.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study), Ocean Resources for America's Needs (Regional Study), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study)
Assessment of Physical Changes in Barrier Islands and Coastal Wetlands Associated with Hurricane SandyAssessment of Physical Changes in Barrier Islands and Coastal Wetlands Associated with Hurricane Sandy
Integrating wetland assessments with existing coastal-change hazard assessments for the adjacent dunes and beaches to create a more comprehensive look at coastal ecosystem vulnerability.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Regional Study, Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study, Regional Study, Applied Science)
Estuarine ResponseEstuarine Response
Assessing the estuarine and adjacent wetland responses of three Atlantic lagoonal estuaries to major storm events such as Hurricane Sandy.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Regional Study), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (Regional Study)
Linking Geologic Framework to Coastal Vulnerability along the Delmarva peninsulaLinking Geologic Framework to Coastal Vulnerability along the Delmarva peninsula
Geologic and geophysical mapping of the inner continental shelf of the Delmarva coastal system is identifying the region's sediment sources, transport pathways and sinks. By linking this information to physical processes, we can better understand how storm events and longer-term changes control coastal vulnerability and evolution.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Regional Study)
Coastal Change ProcessesCoastal Change Processes
Investigating interactions between the shoreline, nearshore, and offshore sediment transport processes driving coastal change; and developing capabilities to predict impacts.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Regional Study)
The Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Pacific Ocean Atolls that House Department of Defense InstallationsThe Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Pacific Ocean Atolls that House Department of Defense Installations
Assessing the impacts of sea-level rise and storm-wave-induced overwash and inundation on Pacific atoll islets and their freshwater resources under various sea-level rise and climatic scenarios
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Regional Study, Applied Science), Geologic Hazards and Catastrophic Events (Regional Study, Applied Science)
Climate Change Impacts to the U.S. Pacific and Arctic CoastsClimate Change Impacts to the U.S. Pacific and Arctic Coasts
Understanding local and regional coastal response to forecasted changes.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Regional Study), Geologic Hazards and Catastrophic Events (Regional Study, Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (Regional Study)
Carolina Coastal Change ProcessesCarolina Coastal Change Processes
Investigating how shoreline, near-shore, and offshore sediment transport processes drive coastal change in the Carolinas through combined use of geophysical surveys, oceanographic studies, and predictive models.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Regional Study, Applied Science)
Fire Island Coastal ChangeFire Island Coastal Change
Understanding the long- and short-term behavior of the Fire Island barrier island system to determine coastal resiliency based on sand availability and nearshore oceanographic processes.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Regional Study), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (Regional Study)
Barrier Island EvolutionBarrier Island Evolution
Addressing the research gap between the short time scale of individual storms and the longer time scales associated with the historic and geologic evolution of coastal systems.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Regional Study), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (Regional Study, Applied Science)
San Francisco Bay Coastal SystemSan Francisco Bay Coastal System
Identifying the physical processes and human influences that have resulted in significant structural changes to San Francisco Bay.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Regional Study), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (Regional Study)
Geologic Mapping Offshore of Rhode IslandGeologic Mapping Offshore of Rhode Island
Mapping sea-floor geology and sedimentary environments is fundamental for managing activities along Rhode Island's inner continental shelf.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Regional Study)
High-Resolution Geologic Mapping Offshore of MassachusettsHigh-Resolution Geologic Mapping Offshore of Massachusetts
Mapping sea-floor geology and sedimentary environments that is fundamental for managing activities along Massachusetts' inner continental shelf.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Regional Study)
Coastal Change Hazards PortalCoastal Change Hazards Portal
Visualization tool for exploring coastal hazard risks at varied scales, from local areas of interest to national scope in a geospatial format. Information includes historic shorelines, coastal change rates, sea-level rise, the Coastal Vulnerability Index and more.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Applied Science), Geologic Hazards and Catastrophic Events (Applied Science)
Coastal Model Applications and Field MeasurementsCoastal Model Applications and Field Measurements
Developing open-source numerical models for sediment-transport in coastal environments.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (Applied Science)
Sediment Transport in Coastal EnvironmentsSediment Transport in Coastal Environments
Finding solutions to environmental problems caused by sediment erosion and movement.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Applied Science), Ocean Resources for America's Needs (Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study, Applied Science)
Hurricane Sandy Response - Storm Impacts and Vulnerability of Coastal BeachesHurricane Sandy Response - Storm Impacts and Vulnerability of Coastal Beaches
Using post-Sandy lidar elevation data to update assessments of storm-induced coastal erosion hazards for Northeast beaches and to revise forecasts of coastal change that identify areas vulnerable to extreme erosion during future storms.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Applied Science), Geologic Hazards and Catastrophic Events (Regional Study)
The Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Pacific Ocean Atolls that House Department of Defense InstallationsThe Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Pacific Ocean Atolls that House Department of Defense Installations
Assessing the impacts of sea-level rise and storm-wave-induced overwash and inundation on Pacific atoll islets and their freshwater resources under various sea-level rise and climatic scenarios
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Regional Study, Applied Science), Geologic Hazards and Catastrophic Events (Regional Study, Applied Science)
Carolina Coastal Change ProcessesCarolina Coastal Change Processes
Investigating how shoreline, near-shore, and offshore sediment transport processes drive coastal change in the Carolinas through combined use of geophysical surveys, oceanographic studies, and predictive models.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Regional Study, Applied Science)
Assessment of Physical Changes in Barrier Islands and Coastal Wetlands Associated with Hurricane SandyAssessment of Physical Changes in Barrier Islands and Coastal Wetlands Associated with Hurricane Sandy
Integrating wetland assessments with existing coastal-change hazard assessments for the adjacent dunes and beaches to create a more comprehensive look at coastal ecosystem vulnerability.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Regional Study, Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study, Regional Study, Applied Science)
Fluxes to estuarine and coastal environmentsFluxes to estuarine and coastal environments
Using interdisciplinary science that combines observations and numerical modeling to evaluate possible future environmental changes in tidal wetlands, estuaries and coasts.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Applied Science), Ocean Resources for America's Needs (National Study, Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study, Applied Science)
Marine Aggregate Resources and ProcessesMarine Aggregate Resources and Processes
Providing information about offshore aggregate deposits such as grain size, composition, and extent, to support resource and habitat assessments, and sustainability.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Applied Science), Ocean Resources for America's Needs (National Study, Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study)
Sea-Level Rise Hazards and Decision SupportSea-Level Rise Hazards and Decision Support
Using combined scientific expertise in geology, hydrology, geography, biology, and ecology to understand and address the effects of sea-level rise on the Nation's coasts.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Applied Science), Geologic Hazards and Catastrophic Events (National Study, Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (National Study)
Lidar for Science and Resource ManagementLidar for Science and Resource Management
Utilizing multi-spectral remote sensing to study coastal-marine and terrestrial environments.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (Applied Science), Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science (Applied Science)
Sea and Lake Floor MappingSea and Lake Floor Mapping
Providing research programs with technical expertise and innovations in seafloor mapping production.
Research Theme(s): Understanding Coastal Change (National Study, Applied Science), Ocean Resources for America's Needs (Regional Study)

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