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Coastal Hazards and Resilience Research

Image of Tsunami Evacuation Route sign

Photo Credit: Tiffany Woods, Oregon Sea Grant (2016)

Coastlines are beautiful and appealing places to live, yet are prone to many natural hazards resulting from waves and currents, climate and weather, and tectonic activity. As of 2010, 52% of the US population lived in a coastal county. As these populations grow and development increases, larger numbers of people will be exposed to these hazards, leading to an increased level of risk in populated coastlines. Many of the “safe” stretches of coastline are already developed, and future development may take place in more hazardous areas. Scientists are conducting research to refine our knowledge of coastal hazards and ways to increase public safety in hazardous zones. Research on this topic includes impacts of and responses to coastal hazards, and coastal planning and hazard mitigation, and storm protection (in alphabetical order).  

  • Coastal hazards can occur at short- and long-term time scales and at regional and local levels. Examples include sneaker waves, erosion, sea level rise, tsunamis, flooding, landslides, windstorms, and harmful algal blooms. 
  • Coastal planning and hazard mitigation that contribute to developing hazard-resilient communities are critical to allow coastal populations to prepare for, absorb, and bounce back from significant threats. Planning at the local and state level is aimed at helping to minimize social, economic, and environmental risks that result from coastal hazards. 
  • Storm protection for homes, roads, and other development is provided by natural coastal habitats (e.g., wetlands, dunes), as well as green and grey infrastructure.  These habitats and man-made structures create a barrier between developed areas and the ocean and prevent flooding during storms. Modifications or degradation of coastal habitats may decrease their ability to provide this vital service to coastal communities. 
More information about Oregon coastal hazards can be found here:

Research Highlights

Research and monitoring is being conducted in several areas along the Oregon coast to improve assessment and management for coastal hazards. The Oregon Coastal Management Program provides funding and resources to local governments to support better data collection, data analysis, and policy implementation. For example, coastal counties can obtain access to data and maps from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries showing detailed coastal risk hazard zones, and results of long-term shoreline monitoring that assess effects and future impacts from coastal storms. 

In 2021, Oregon Sea Grant Resilience Fellow, Felicia Olmeta Schult, developed the Oregon Coastal Hazards Ready (OCHR) Library & Mapper that features cases of how coastal communities deal with erosion, landslides, flooding and the threat of a tsunami. It aims to help individuals, communities and governments identify alternatives to shoreline armoring and approaches to prepare for such hazards on the Oregon coast. Additional case studies can be added to the mapper by filling out an online form on this page


Neumann, B., Vafeidis, A. T., Zimmermann, J., & Nicholls, R. J. (2015). Future Coastal Population Growth and Exposure to Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Flooding - A Global Assessment. PLoS ONE, 10(3), 1–34. 

Authored by Amy Ehrhart, Oregon State University (2022)