Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Assess Risks Associated With Living In Low-lying Coastal Areas

Date:
May 17, 2006
Source:
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Summary:
Low-elevation coastal zones, those regions of the planet within 100km of a coast and below 10m in elevation, account for only about 2 percent of the world's land area, but are home to roughly 10 percent of the world's population, more than half of which live in urban areas. These regions are in danger of flooding in the face of rising sea level and increasing storm activity.

Map of Population and Low-Elevation Coastal Areas in the New York Metrpolitan Region.
Credit: Image courtesy of The Earth Institute at Columbia University

For many, sea-level rise is a remote and distant threat faced by people like the residents of the Tuvalu Islands in the South Pacific, where the highest point of land is only 5 meters (15 feet) above sea level and tidal floods occasionally cover their crops in seawater.

Related Articles


Now, however, a recently published study by researchers from The Earth Institute at Columbia University and the International Institute for Environment and Development suggests that as much as 10 percent of the world's population is vulnerable. In particular, the authors have found that many large cities face risks posed by rising sea level and increased storm intensity.

"Urban areas have traditionally been studied in a way that separates them from their physical surroundings," says Deborah Balk, a demographer with the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), a member of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. "We talk about urban issues as if they occur in a spatial vacuum, but you can't address these questions without understanding the spatial dimensions."

One often-overlooked dimension is elevation. Ten percent of the world's population lives in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters (33 feet) above sea level, reports Balk and her colleagues. Although they only comprise about 2.2 percent of the world's land area, these low-elevation coastal zones (LECZs) are home to 600 million people. In addition, about 360 million people in LECZs live in urban areas which means that more people will be exposed to hazards such as sea-level rise and storm surges—phenomena that are expected to worsen as a result of global warming.

The study reports that low-income countries and the Least Developed Countries, a designation used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to identify 50 very-low-income nations, in LECZs have a particularly high risk. In particular, Vietnam and Bangladesh have both a high percentage of their total area as well as major metropolitan areas situated inside the LECZ.

Wealthier countries also face significant risks, the researchers say, but have more resources with which to deal with climate variability. However, even with access to economic and technical resources, the challenge of preparing for sea level rise and increases in coastal storms remains difficult for high-income countries. More than 60 percent of the population and land area of The Netherlands, for example is located in the LECZ, and the country has expended vast resources over decades on flood prevention projects. Despite this, they have achieved only mixed results and some efforts been abandoned as ineffective or not cost-effective.

Looking forward, urban areas in low-lying coastal areas may indicate those countries where direct impacts on humans will be especially high in the future. The U.S., in particular, faces significant risk with more urban areas in the LECZ than any other country.

No one geographic or economic indicator can predict risk, the researchers conclude, adding that the different types of cities and coastal zones must be examined in more detail in order to assess the vulnerabilities to climate change faced by different countries: "These results illustrate the importance of looking beyond the small island states to recognize how wide-spread the risks truly are."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Earth Institute at Columbia University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Earth Institute at Columbia University. "Researchers Assess Risks Associated With Living In Low-lying Coastal Areas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 May 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060517175614.htm>.
The Earth Institute at Columbia University. (2006, May 17). Researchers Assess Risks Associated With Living In Low-lying Coastal Areas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060517175614.htm
The Earth Institute at Columbia University. "Researchers Assess Risks Associated With Living In Low-lying Coastal Areas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060517175614.htm (accessed January 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Aquaponics Turn Suburban Industrial Park Into Farmland: Hume

Aquaponics Turn Suburban Industrial Park Into Farmland: Hume

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) — Ancient techniques of growing greens with fish and water are well ahead of Toronto bylaws. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Madagascar Locust Plague Could Mean Famine For Millions

Madagascar Locust Plague Could Mean Famine For Millions

Newsy (Jan. 27, 2015) — The Food and Agriculture Organization says millions could face famine in Madagascar without more funding to finish locust eradication efforts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Slams New England, Spares Mid-Atlantic

Storm Slams New England, Spares Mid-Atlantic

AP (Jan. 27, 2015) — A howling blizzard with wind gusts over 70 mph heaped snow on Boston along with other stretches of lower New England and Long Island on Tuesday, but failed to live up to the hype in Philadelphia and New York City. (Jan. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mexico's Volcano of Fire Erupts Again

Mexico's Volcano of Fire Erupts Again

Reuters - News Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) — A huge plume of smoke shoots into the air as activity in Mexico&apos;s Volcano of Fire picks up again. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins