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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
Coastal Change Processes; Investigating interactions between the shoreline, nearshore, and offshore sediment transport processes driving coastal change and developing capabilities to predict impacts.
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
The Barrier Island and Estuarine Wetland Physical Change Assessment project is integrating a wetland assessment with existing coastal-change hazard assessments for the adjacent dunes and beaches, and will focus, initially, on Assateague Island, Maryland, to create a more comprehensive look at coastal ecosystem vulnerability.
Carolina Coastal Change ProcessesCarolina Coastal Change Processes
Investigate 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.
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.
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.
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.
Estuarine ResponseEstuarine Response
Using interdisciplinary science that combines observations and numerical modeling to evaluate possible future environmental changes in tidal wetlands, estuaries and coasts.
Sea and Lake Floor MappingSea and Lake Floor Mapping
Providing technical expertise and innovations in planning, acquiring, processing, interpreting, archiving, and publishing seafloor mapping products to support the coastal, and inner-continental shelf geology, sediment transport, environmental geoscience, and energy/tectonics research programs.
Marine Aggregate Resources and ProcessesMarine Aggregate Resources and Processes
Collaborative collection of information about offshore aggregate deposits such as grain size, composition and extent to support resource and habitat assessments, and sustainable use and protection.
National Seafloor Mapping and Benthic Habitat Studies: AtlanticNational Seafloor Mapping and Benthic Habitat Studies: Atlantic
Scientific monitoring and assessment of diverse marine habitats at Stellwagen and Georges Banks to preserve and support a large fishing industry.
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.
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
The Barrier Island and Estuarine Wetland Physical Change Assessment project is integrating a wetland assessment with existing coastal-change hazard assessments for the adjacent dunes and beaches, and will focus, initially, on Assateague Island, Maryland, to create a more comprehensive look at coastal ecosystem vulnerability.
Coastal Change ProcessesCoastal Change Processes
Coastal Change Processes; Investigating interactions between the shoreline, nearshore, and offshore sediment transport processes driving coastal change and developing capabilities to predict impacts.
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.
Carolina Coastal Change ProcessesCarolina Coastal Change Processes
Investigate 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Coastal Model Applications and Field MeasurementsCoastal Model Applications and Field Measurements
Collaborative development of open-source numerical models for sediment-transport in coastal environments.
Sediment Transport in Coastal EnvironmentsSediment Transport in Coastal Environments
Finding solutions to environmental problems caused by sediment erosion and movement.
Hurricane Sandy Response - Storm Impacts and Vulnerability of Coastal BeachesHurricane Sandy Response - Storm Impacts and Vulnerability of Coastal Beaches
Post-Sandy lidar elevation data are being used to update assessments of storm-induced coastal erosion hazards for Northeast beaches and revise forecasts of coastal change that identify areas vulnerable to extreme erosion during future storms
Carolina Coastal Change ProcessesCarolina Coastal Change Processes
Investigate 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.
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
The Barrier Island and Estuarine Wetland Physical Change Assessment project is integrating a wetland assessment with existing coastal-change hazard assessments for the adjacent dunes and beaches, and will focus, initially, on Assateague Island, Maryland, to create a more comprehensive look at coastal ecosystem vulnerability.
Estuarine ResponseEstuarine Response
Using interdisciplinary science that combines observations and numerical modeling to evaluate possible future environmental changes in tidal wetlands, estuaries and coasts.
Marine Aggregate Resources and ProcessesMarine Aggregate Resources and Processes
Collaborative collection of information about offshore aggregate deposits such as grain size, composition and extent to support resource and habitat assessments, and sustainable use and protection.
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.
Lidar for Science and Resource ManagementLidar for Science and Resource Management
Multi-spectral remote sensing of coastal-marine and terrestrial environments.
Sea and Lake Floor MappingSea and Lake Floor Mapping
Providing technical expertise and innovations in planning, acquiring, processing, interpreting, archiving, and publishing seafloor mapping products to support the coastal, and inner-continental shelf geology, sediment transport, environmental geoscience, and energy/tectonics research programs.

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