Social Vulnerability and Resilience

The impacts from coastal hazards threaten property, community well-being, and marine industries, the latter of which contributes billions of dollars annually to the U.S. economy. By understanding the vulnerabilities of communities to potential coastal risks—such as sea level rise, inundation, flooding, water pollution, storms, and coastal erosion—communities can take action to prepare and become more resilient. NCCOS generates tools and information to improve community resilience to these risks and other coastal hazards. We provide coastal communities, planners, managers, and regulators with the social science research needed to better plan, recover, and adapt to coastal hazards and events.

How Our Science Supports

NCCOS examines this array of vulnerabilities in relation to various coastal and climate-related threats. We intersect vulnerabilities with risks to identify areas of overlapping high risk and high vulnerability. Coastal communities can then use this information to identify priority adaptation areas to help coastal managers both understand the unique characteristics of their region and allocate resources accordingly. Ultimately, this research informs decision-making related to hazard planning, mitigation, and recovery.

Identifying Coastal Vulnerabilities

Communities and ecosystems can be physically, structurally, socially, and economically vulnerable to coastal hazards.


Structural Vulnerability
The structural characteristics
that influence a building or road’s
vulnerability to hazard impacts,
such as building material or
structure grade.


Physical Vulnerability
People and structures that are
in the path of potential threats
because of where they are
located. For example, beach
homes on a barrier island are
vulnerable to damage from


Social Vulnerability
The population characteristics that may increase one's vulnerability to the effects of coastal hazards. Social characteristics, such as old age or disability, can influence the ability of people to escape coastal hazards.


Economic Vulnerability
Economic vulnerability, often
due to low incomes, poverty, or
unemployment, can hinder
one’s economic ability to
escape and recover from
hazard events as well.

Assessing Hazard Impacts to Inform Recovery Potential

Coastal hazards impact communities, industries, and infrastructure differently. Documenting the effects from various hazard events on each sector and then intersecting these impacts helps communities to identify what might be done to better facilitate recovery efforts. Understanding recovery potential, in tandem with vulnerability, means that planners can target resources to increase their community’s potential for resilience. NCCOS researches these impacts and evaluates recovery potential to assist coastal planners in decision-making, strategic planning, and resource allocation.

Find out more about climate change
and NCCOS vulnerability science

Take a Closer Look: Assessing Vulnerability and Resilience