Coastal News

Unlocking Geo-data to Build Coastal Resilience

Growing coastal climate related hazards pose a serious threat to coastal regions around the world. Tom Parry, Fugro’s Global Lead for Coastal Resilience, explains how improving access to Geo-data can help these regions understand, communicate, and adapt to these risks.

The lives, infrastructure, and natural environments that countless coastal communities around the world rely on are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This pending change can feel so vast and intangible that it is often difficult for people to imagine its effects over the longer term.

Understanding and adapting to risk

Understanding and adapting to global climate change will involve society overcoming complex social, political, and engineering challenges requiring us to address questions about what these risks are, how severe the impacts are likely to be, and when and how we need to act. Understanding and communicating these dimensions will improve decision making and reduce uncertainty of the impacts on ageing global infrastructure, exposed communities, and most fundamentally natural capital. All are vital in achieving coastal resilience as without these factors, sustainable co-existence with this change will likely not be achievable.

EM1 cri no title hrFugro’s approach to building coastal resilience

Climate change has no boundaries, and neither should Geo-data

Gathering Geo-data across the land and marine interface will be vital in measuring and managing these geohazards and risks to assets. With the development of analytical technologies organising and unlocking insights from this data, such as, the digital twin movement will allow us to break down barriers to Geo-data and the insights we gain to ensure vital information is delivered when and where it is needed. This can be achieved through:

  • Building a needs-based understanding of coastal hazards and impacts – using advanced remote sensing technologies to identify risks early on and plan for change;
  • Capturing earth and asset data in real time – monitoring to improve data frequency and drive up the reliability of risk analysis;
  • Understand how the environments will respond to change - characterising how risks are changing in the environments we need to engineer within;
  • Reducing uncertainty by simplifying the complex – using diagnostic risk models to organise spatial and temporal data to aid understanding of cause-effect relationships.

Addressing the key challenges

The task of building coastal resilience will require support based upon three key pillars:

  1. Adaptation of coastal communities
    Supporting coastal communities like those living on small islands within the Pacific can take many forms, including reconnaissance and early warning systems, improving coastal flood and erosion protection, and providing emergency response. Changing people’s behaviours towards these risks is also just as important. Delivering insights through early engagement and visualisation tools can inform communities about coastal hazards and make sure that vulnerable communities who are at risk are well prepared.
  2. Defence of coastal infrastructure
    Since the industrial revolution and with the growth of developing nations in the late 20th century, global construction within our coastal urban areas increased. A vast amount of existing coastal infrastructure is now ageing and is beyond its intended design life. With growing environmental stress being placed on this infrastructure, the need to monitor assets and ground conditions is growing rapidly. The need for digital twins that integrates ground and asset information is key to identifying the relationship of these geohazards and asset risks.
  3. Preservation of natural capital
    We are at the dawn of a new era: one in which environments are seen and valued, not just for their carbon-capture potential but also for their ability to protect us from the physical consequences of climate change. The need for funding is significant but the return on investment is far greater. Geo-data can support our understanding of this vast natural capital to help us improve our response to the natural world and reduce the uncertainty about how we protect it.

Each of these pillars will be further explored in forthcoming Fugro World articles

EM2 cr image 4 resizedDigital twins can support organised and visualised risk analysis to deliver multiple benefits including vital early warnings


  • By 2030, 15 million people and $177 billion in urban property will be impacted annually by coastal flooding
  • Between now and 2030, the number of people annually impacted by coastal flooding is expected to double worldwide – from 7 million to 15 million – and the amount of urban property damaged by coastal storm surge is expected to increase tenfold – from $17 billion to $177 billion
  • Ten countries account for 84 % of the population that will be newly exposed to coastal flooding by 2030 – Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Philippines, Myanmar, Egypt and the Netherlands.
  • Land subsidence in coastal cities caused by the overexploitation of groundwater puts an additional 2 million people at risk of coastal flooding by 2030
  • By 2030, coastal flooding cause by climate change will impact larger populations in South and Southeast Asia than the rest of the world combined.
  • Access to early warnings by just 24 hours can reduce the impact of disaster by 30 %

By Tom Parry, Global Lead for Coastal Resilience


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