Coastal Geohazards

tsunami inundation
Inundation of Pago by tsunami waves. National Park of American Samoa.

Natural processes such as tsunamis, coastal landslides, and storms are driving forces of change along the coast. When combined with increasing sea levels, these events may have tremendous impacts on our coastal environments and beaches.

These processes and other coastal hazards are threatening parks’ cultural and natural resources, infrastructure, and public recreational opportunities. To effectively cope with these issues, the NPS is working to identify and meet the needs for scientific information, decision support tools, and coastal adaptation. See the articles below for an introduction to some of the coastal hazards present in parks:


Natural processes are integral in maintaining the geodiversity of coastal landscapes. They greatly contribute to the creation and transformation of our coastal landforms. Many natural hazards occur in cascading sequences which adds to their effects (e.g., earthquakes and tsunamis, coastal storms and storm surge), and many coastal hazards are becoming heightened with rises in sea level. Coastal hazards are factors that make each of our parks unique. However, these processes may become dangerous at the human-nature interface.

In certain locations, humans attempt to alter and control the coastal zone for increased public safety and property preservation, for more information see Engineering in the Coastal Environment. However, these modifications may increase storm impacts in some locations. It is important to fully understand the impacts of engineering before initiating a project.

Our park resources and structures are vulnerable to such rapid change events. In response, the National Park Service, in cooperation with various partners, is undertaking a series of investigations to assess the vulnerability of natural and cultural resources to hazards in coastal parks. These projects, found on the Coastal Adaptation site, will allow managers to better understand that vulnerability and improve the park's pre-hazard preparedness and post-hazard response.


Natural Coastal Hazards

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    Last updated: June 10, 2019


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