The United Nations reports that roughly 40% of the global population resides within 100 km of the ocean. That means more than 3 billion people are potentially exposed to natural hazards such as tropical storms, sea level rise, and tsunamis. These coastal communities need strategies to balance the risk from natural hazards with the pressure to increase commercial, residential, and recreational development. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, coastal resilience “means building the ability of a community to ’bounce back’ after hazardous events such as hurricanes, coastal storms, and flooding – rather than simply reacting to impacts.” Being resilient will reduce negative impacts on human health, the environment, and the economy. 

In their work, “Application of Coastal Resilience Metrics at Panama City Beach, Florida,” researchers Scott L. Spurgeon, Brian C. McFall, Stephanie M. Patch, and Jennifer M. Wozencraft investigate current and alternate beach nourishment options and their relationship with resilience. They used Panama Beach, Florida, as a study site and utilized the Coastal Engineering Resilience Index and Buffer Width metrics together to track the beach’s ability to historically resist storms and compare future profile alternatives, an objective that would not be possible without the combination of the metrics. No previous research has calculated a quantitative metric in the coastal environment based on the morphology and forcing factors. By employing both metrics in this study, published in the Journal of Waterway, Port, Coastal, and Ocean Engineering, the authors highlight the resilience value of frequency of designed nourishments. The lessons learned by combining these metrics in this study could be applied at other at-risk coastal communities. Learn more about their research at The abstract is below.


Coastal resilience is the ability of a system to prepare, resist, recover, and adapt to achieve functional performance under adverse events such as storms and sea-level changes. Usually, previously developed metrics are applied to quantify the resistance portion of coastal resilience, which supports the preparation and adaptation portions. Recent research produced a GIS-based tool that provides a quantitative coastal resilience metric to inform decisions related to protection from coastal storm impacts and to evaluate the success of past management actions. Other research developed a forward-looking metric that uses Beach-fx results to calculate future resilience based on nourishment alternatives. This study, for the first time, combines the Coastal Engineering Resilience Index (CERI) and Buffer Width (BW) metrics to better understand the historic, current, and future resilience of the coastal system at Panama City Beach, Florida. After the construction of the US Army Corps of Engineers Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) project at Panama City Beach, the CERI resilience metric has increased up to 21.3%, while negative storm impacts in the same have been less than 8%. The frequency of nourishment efforts moving forward is justified by a 24.3% increase in the BW metric when comparing cases that are nourished frequently with cases that are not nourished frequently. Moreover, there is a 129.2% increase in the BW metric when comparing the frequently nourished cases with the cases that are nourished only on an emergency basis. While the CERI and BW metrics have both been considered previously, their combined application provides an understanding of a broader temporal view of how storm events, CSRM projects, and nourishments have played a part in the resilience of the system at Panama City Beach over the last two decades and how they may play a role in the next half century.

Learn more about this first-of-its-kind study in the ASCE Library: