Earth Science News  





. The Risks Of Living In Low-Lying Coastal Areas

Many large urban areas in developing and developed countries alike are at risk of flooding from storm surges. Ho Chi Minh City, with a population of more than 6 million, many of whom live within 100km of the coast and at less than 10m elevation, is one of two major urban centers in Vietnam partly within the low-elevation coastal zone.
by Staff Writers
Tuvalu Islands, South Pacific Ocean (SPX) May 18, 2006
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.

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."

Related Links
Earth Institute

Photosynthetic Trends In Northern Circumpolar High Latitudes
Falmouth MA (SPX) May 18, 2006
Using time series analyses of a 22-year record of satellite observations across the northern circumpolar high latitudes, scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center are assessing trends in vegetation photosynthetic activity.

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  



  • I think I'll take the stairs
  • Dutch Soldiers Move Into Afghanistan Under Apache Protection
  • MSV Supports New Laws Boosting Satellite Communications Provisions For Emergencies
  • Indians At Risk In Afghanistan

  • Photosynthetic Trends In Northern Circumpolar High Latitudes
  • The Risks Of Living In Low-Lying Coastal Areas
  • Coral Reef Reveals History Of Fickle Weather In The Central Pacific
  • Global Warming May Have Damaged Coral Reefs Forever

  • NASA Looks At Hurricane Cloud Tops For Windy Clues
  • Tibet Provides Passage For Chemicals To Reach The Stratosphere
  • Raytheon Tests Advanced Space-Based Weather Sensor
  • African Wetland Managers Armed With New Technology

  • Russian Nuclear Industry Focuses On Energy Security And Expansion
  • Pollution permits surplus raises questions about EU emissions scheme
  • Russia Stable Energy Partner, Shares West's Values
  • Scientists Create the First Synthetic Nanoscale Fractal Molecule

  • Hundred cases a day of HIV infections in Russia: officials
  • Sanyo says filtering system effective against bird flu viruses
  • Suspected Bird Flu Cluster In Indonesia
  • Bird Flu Vaccine Priority

  • South Pacific Plant May Be Missing Link In Evolution Of Flowering Plants
  • Third Slovenian bear released in Pyrenees
  • Dolphins At Risk
  • Chimpanzee Study Reveals Genome Variation Hotspots

  • Exxon Valdez Oil Found In Tidal Feeding Grounds Of Ducks, Sea Otters
  • New "Toxic" Ship Bound For India
  • China Says River Clean After Thaw
  • China's "Cancer Villages" Pay Heavy Price For Economic Progress

  • Human And Chimp Genomes Reveal New Twist On Origin Of Species
  • The Brain's Executive Is An 'Event Planner'
  • Ancient Tomb Sheds New Light On Egyptian Colonialism
  • Brain Research Reveals Us To Be Lost In Thought

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement