Extreme storms can have a profound impact on coastal topography and thus on ecosystems and human-built structures within coastal regions. For instance, landfalls of several recent major hurricanes have caused significant changes to the U.S. coastline, particularly along the Gulf of Mexico. Some of these hurricanes (e.g., Ivan in 2004, Katrina and Rita in 2005, and Gustav and Ike in 2008) led to shoreline position changes of about 100 meters. Sand dunes, which protect the coast from waves and surge, eroded, losing several meters of elevation in the course of a single storm. Observations during these events raise the question of how storm-related changes affect the future vulnerability of a coast.
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