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Open-File Report 2010-1146

Coastal Vulnerability Assessment of the Northern Gulf of Mexico to Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Change

By E.A. Pendleton, J.A. Barras, S.J. Williams, and D.C. Twichell

ABSTRACT

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A coastal vulnerability index (CVI) was used to map the relative vulnerability of the coast to future sea-level rise along the Northern Gulf of Mexico from Galveston, TX, to Panama City, FL. The CVI ranks the following in terms of their physical contribution to sea-level rise-related coastal change: geomorphology, regional coastal slope, rate of relative sea-level rise, historical shoreline change rate, mean tidal range, and mean significant wave height. The rankings for each variable are combined and an index value is calculated for 1-kilometer grid cells along the coast. The CVI highlights those regions where the physical effects of sea-level rise might be the greatest. The CVI assessment presented here builds on an earlier assessment conducted for the Gulf of Mexico. Recent higher resolution shoreline change, land loss, elevation, and subsidence data provide the foundation for a better assessment for the Northern Gulf of Mexico. The areas along the Northern Gulf of Mexico that are likely to be most vulnerable to sea-level rise are parts of the Louisiana Chenier Plain, Teche-Vermillion Basin, and the Mississippi barrier islands, as well as most of the Terrebonne and Barataria Bay region and the Chandeleur Islands. These very high vulnerability areas have the highest rates of relative sea-level rise and the highest rates of shoreline change or land area loss. The information provided by coastal vulnerability assessments can be used in long-term coastal management and policy decision making.

Posted July 2010

For additional information contact:
Director
U.S. Geological Survey
Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
384 Woods Hole Road
Quissett Campus
Woods Hole, MA 02543
(508)548-8700

http://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/

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Suggested citation:

Pendleton, E.A., Barras, J.A., Williams, S.J., and Twichell, D.C., 2010, Coastal vulnerability assessment of the Northern Gulf of Mexico to sea-level rise and coastal change: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010-1146, at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2010/1146/.


Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Northern Gulf of Mexico

Methods

Constructing the database

Classifying the data

Calculating the index

Principal Component Analysis (PCA)

Geologic Variables

Geomorphology

Historical shoreline change rate

Historical land-loss rate

Regional coastal slope

Physical Process Variables

Relative sea-level

Vertical movement rate

Mean significant wave height

Tidal range

Results

Discussion

Conclusions

Acknowledgments

References Cited

Appendix



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