Coastal Flooding And Storm Surge

By 2006, an estimated 44 percent of the world's 6.5 billion inhabitants lived within 93.2 mi. (150 km.) of a seacoast. Eight of the world's 10 largest cities are coastal, including: New York, Tokyo, Shanghai, Kolkota, Sao Paulo, and Mexico City. This puts tens of millions of people at risk from coastal flooding and storm surge, with more people gravitating toward the oceans each year. As the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 illustrated, the impact of coastal flooding can be devastating: over 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean were killed in a single day.

A tsunami is a series of waves created by the displacement of water and is generally the result of geological events such as an undersea earthquake, a volcanic eruption, or a massive landslide. However, meteorological events are a much more common threat to coastal communities.

Coastal flooding occurs when the sea level rises above the normal tides, usually in response to an offshore storm or low-pressure system, but occasionally from significant runoff from nearby land. In its mildest forms, coastal flooding causes beach erosion, while moderate to major flooding can wash out roads and structures close to the shoreline. In coastal cities like New York, heavy coastal flooding can cause havoc by inundating the subway system and underground utilities, freezing transportation, and disrupting the power grid.

Storm surge is a phenomena tied to low-pressure systems such as tropical cyclones or hurricanes. The force of the winds inside a hurricane pushes the water up in front of it. This piling effect combines with normal tides, sometime rasing the mean water level by more than 15 ft. (4.5 m.). Wind and wave action turn this high water into a destructive force once they make landfall: 90 percent of all human deaths in hurricanes are cause by storm surge.

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