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The Coastal Hazard Wheel - a new language to boost coastal climate adaptation worldwide



The Coastal Hazard Wheel is developed as a universal coastal adaptation system to address all key coastal challenges simultaneously. It can be used as a complete coastal language and aims to boost adaptation action for the 1 billion people living in coastal areas worldwide and bridge the gap between scientists, policy-makers and the general public. It is designed as a climate visualization termed the 'Coastal Hazard Wheel' to ease its broad application.

The Coastal Hazard Wheel is based on a new coastal classification system that captures all the essential characteristics of coastal environments worldwide. It functions as a key for classifying a particular coastal location, determining its hazard profile, identifying relevant management options and communicating coastal information. The system can be used at local, regional and national level and in areas with limited data availability and technical capacity such as developing countries. It covers the hazards of ecosystem disruption, gradual inundation, salt water intrusion, erosion and flooding and provides hazard profiles and adaptation guidance for any coastal location worldwide.

The Coastal Hazard Wheel aims to facilitate multi-stakeholder coordination and communication at all levels and can provide early warning about potentially hazardous conditions. It has been through a rigorous scientific review process, has been translated to all the official UN languages and has been tested through a range of project applications and user consultations.

In March 2017, an open access partnership on the system has been launched that will develop an advanced, automated Coastal Hazard Wheel IT-system and open access classification of the world's coastlines to boost adaptation action and coastal communication worldwide.

What actions do you propose?

The Coastal Hazard Wheel has been published as scientific papers in recognized academic journals over the last few years. Building on this foundation, an international open access partnership on the system has been launched, hereunder a knowledge platform, a new UNEP publication and a Coastal Hazard Wheel App that constitutes the core component of the automated IT-system.

The goal of the activities is to develop an advanced, automated Coastal Hazard Wheel IT-system that over time will provide a complete interactive IT-solution and a high quality classification of the world's coastlines. The broader implementation involves development of the relevant IT-infrastructure, 'big data' processing and refinement and various training, technical support and outreach activities for national stakeholders. The specific national activities will go hand-in-hand with the development of the IT-system and the global coastal classification programme, ensuring that the activities are fully aligned with national requirements and can support both central government planning and local adaptation activities.

The Coastal Hazard Wheel IT-system aims to incorporate smartphone enabled citizen-science components to allow local stakeholders to take active part in adaptation activities and decision-making. This will contribute to direct ownership of adaptation action amongst local stakeholders and allow them to engage directly across technical, educational and hierarchical barriers. The local citizen-science inputs and observations are expected to be very relevant for the broader 'big data' activities and IT-services, hence providing win-wins for all stakeholders.

The involvement of local stakeholders and vulnerable groups will also provide significant early warning benefits as stakeholders can act directly on local hazard information and flag relevant concerns to the coastal community. It thereby contributes to general Disaster Risk Reduction by making local people aware of how/where possible catastrophic events can happen, what can be done to reduce the risks and allowing smooth communication of critical information. The local early warning components can be further strengthened by integrating the IT-system with local hydro-meteorological alert services, thereby also supporting short-term responses to flooding and erosion hazards.

Who will take these actions?

The activities are taken forward as an international public-private partnership involving a group of leading global knowledge institutions. The aim of the initiative is to provide scientific background information, advanced IT-solutions and global coastal classification data with open access, while at the same time being financially self-sustaining and potentially scalable. The Coastal Hazard Wheel IT-system and the big data activities will be operated by the Dutch national coastal institute, Deltares, while the knowledge platform will function as the hub for all activities undertaken with the broader partner group.

Where will these actions be taken?

The actions will be global in nature and specific project activities can take place at local, regional and national level. The Coastal Hazard Wheel divides the coastline into sections of 200-300 meters and a high-quality coastal classification of a specific country can therefore be used to guide adaptation action even at local level. The Coastal Hazard Wheel IT-system currently provides global coastal classification data in low-moderate quality and this will be gradually improved when detailed classification projects are implemented and possible scalable revenue streams accelerate the operations.

What are other key benefits?

The Coastal Hazard Wheel aims to empower all coastal stakeholders to take active part in adaptation action and is equally suited for remote community workshops and complex government planning. The Coastal Hazard Wheel visualization can be printed on an A4 paper and can be used for direct communication with local stakeholders and vulnerable groups. Having the Coastal Hazard Wheel visualization as entry point, these groups can subsequently make use of the IT-system with basic computer/smartphone equipment and an internet connection.

Other relevant benefits include better conceptual understanding of the functioning of the world's coastlines and related hazard management perspectives for policy-makers, coastal stakeholders and the broader public.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The activities have already passed the R&D phase and have reached a phase where the Coastal Hazard Wheel is directly accessible for coastal stakeholders worldwide. Future costs are related to the operation of the knowledge platform, further development of the Coastal Hazard Wheel IT-system, the implementation of the global coastal classification programme, training, technical support and outreach activities for national stakeholders and related national activities.

The costs are expected to be covered with revenue streams from three main sources, namely specific project activities, display of resource partners on the knowledge platform and through development of scalable revenue streams from special data services for the private finance and mortgage sector. Whereas the first two revenue streams will provide the core funding for the operations, the latter will be potentially scalable as the data coverage and quality improves, creating a loop of increasingly advanced IT-operations, increasingly better open access IT-solutions and increasingly better special data services. The core revenue streams should thereby take the activities to a point where the special data services are sufficiently advanced to be offered commercially, after which the global IT-services can be further scaled.

Time line

1-5 years: Implementation of the global coastal classification programme; training, technical support and outreach activities for relevant stakeholders; development of a more advanced IT-system for coastal classification, information management and adaptation support.

5- years: Running and developing the big data activities, providing increasingly advanced and interactive open access IT-solutions for coastal stakeholders worldwide. This could potentially contribute to a standardization of coastal communication worldwide, enhanced adaptation action and improved coastal governance.

Related proposals


The Coastal Hazard Wheel knowledge platform can be accessed at