Abstract

This article examines the vulnerability of US coastal counties to erosion by combining a socioeconomic vulnerability index with the US Geological Survey's physically based coastal vulnerability index. The end product is a county-based index of overall coastal place vulnerability. The results indicate that place vulnerability along the coast is highly differentiated and influenced by a range of social, economic, and physical indicators. Regionally, Gulf Coast vulnerability is more of a product of social characteristics rather than physical attributes. The opposite is true of Pacific and Atlantic coastal counties, where physical characteristics are more influential in determining erosion-hazard vulnerability. It is clear that overall vulnerability of coastal counties cannot be determined without the union of social, economic, built-environment, and physical characteristics. Yet the methods for combining these components are not widely used at present by coastal scientists and policy makers, rendering hazards assessments incomplete and mitigation plans untenable for many places.

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