One of the challenges facing coastal zone managers and municipal planners is the development of an objective, quantitative assessment of the risk to structures, infrastructure, and public safety that coastal communities face from storm surge in the presence of changing climatic conditions, particularly sea level rise and coastal erosion. Here we use state of the art modeling tool (ADCIRC and STWAVE) to predict storm surge and wave, combined with shoreline change maps (erosion), and damage functions to construct a Coastal Environmental Risk Index (CERI). Access to the state emergency data base (E-911) provides information on structure characteristics and the ability to perform analyses for individual structures. CERI has been designed as an on line Geographic Information System (GIS) based tool, and hence is fully compatible with current flooding maps, including those from FEMA. The basic framework and associated GIS methods can be readily applied to any coastal area. The approach can be used by local and state planners to objectively evaluate different policy options for effectiveness and cost/benefit. In this study, CERI is applied to RI two communities; Charlestown representing a typical coastal barrier system directly exposed to ocean waves and high erosion rates, with predominantly low density single family residences and Warwick located within Narragansett Bay, with more limited wave exposure, lower erosion rates, and higher residential housing density. Results of these applications are highlighted herein.
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