InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society > Section 1: Introduction to the Coastal Zone: Forms, Processes and Society
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Introduction to the Coastal Zone: Society, Landforms, and Processes

Authors: Mark Kulp, Dinah Maygarden and Duncan FitzGerald

Summary and Overview

It is currently estimated that nearly 50 percent of the global population lives within 150 km of an ocean and that 75 percent of all mega cities, such as Tokyo and New York, are located in the coastal zone. This section begins with an examination of a suite of heavily populated coastal areas and examines the types of coastal hazards that these locations currently face. Module 1 examines what makes a particular coastal population vulnerable to coastal hazards such as tropical cyclones, global sea level rise, and tsunamis. The unit also investigates what kinds of strategies a coastal population can initiate to reduce the likelihood of devastation from coastal hazards and protect their societal and economic infrastructure. Module 2 investigates the fundamental first- and second-order processes that operate in different coastal zones and examines the different geomorphologic forms and functions of coastal zones that result from these processes. Finally Module 3 provides a global overview of the range of different sub-environments within coastal zones and the different physical processes that affect how these sub-environments evolve through time, and ultimately how society interacts with these sub-environments as they evolve.

Strengths of the Section

The coastal zone is in a fragile balance between long-term geological processes, short-term events such as storms, and development. This course explores how this balance is maintained and sometimes upset. By working through the modules, students will:

  • independently gain an appreciation of how heavily reliant global society is upon the coastal zone either through direct inhabitation of the coastal zone or through societal reliance upon the natural resources of the coastal zone by first-hand examination of satellite imagery and mapping tools;
  • examine map data and use geospatial tools that allow them to view different populations, and their infrastructure, in terms of their distance to the coastline, elevation above sea level, and likelihood of being impacted by a coastal hazard such as storm surge flooding associated with the passage of tropical cyclones; and
  • make observations from coastal pictures and satellite imagery to determine what processes have contributed to the configuration and framework of the coastline.

Context

This section serves as a three-week introduction to the semester-long course, Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society. The course focuses on geology, hazards, engineering, and policy, and the main foci of this section are on the geology and hazards components of the course. Although it is intended for use as a component of the full online or blended course, it could potentially be used on its own as a component of a different course and its modules can be used individually.

Section Goals

Students will develop a broader appreciation for the degree to which society relies upon heavily populated coastal zones where hazards are commonplace. Students will learn about how different societies have developed mitigation strategies to counter the coastal disasters that can occur in these locations. Students will also gain an understanding of the different types of coastal zones, the wide range of sub-environments that are present along coastal zones, and the fundamental processes that have affected and will continue to shape these coastal zones. This unit will introduce an array of coastal classification schemes, with all fundamental focus on how large-scale, plate tectonic processes affect the distribution and characteristics of coastal zones. In specific, students will:

  • Examine a suite of societies and major population centers that are located within coastal zones
  • Identify the global distribution of cities that are most vulnerable to coastal hazards such as sea level rise, tropical cyclones, and tsunamis
  • Understand and evaluate the economics of coastal zones that cause societies to continue to inhabit coastal zones that are at high risk from coastal hazards
  • Recognize the globally diverse forms of coastal zones and the first- and second-order controls on coastal landscapes
  • Understand the types of processes that cause changes to the coastal zone across short-term (daily) and longer-term periods of time

Section Outline

Assessment

This section consists of three modules. Assessments are described under the individual modules.

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »