New database to help Central America and Caribbean protect coastline from climate change

Countries in the Central America and Caribbean could improve coastal planning and develop preventive measures to adapt to the effects of climate change using a database launched recently by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment, University of Cantabria and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The database contains information on coastal dynamics in Latin America and the Caribbean, climate variability, coastal vulnerability and exposure to climate change, the impact of climate change in the area and an estimation of predictable risks in the future.

The results will make it possible to estimate the potential effects of the rise in sea level on the region’s coasts, using historical satellite and buoy information since 1950 and projections for the 21st century.

It combines variables such as annual rise in sea level, changes in wind direction, significant changes in wave height, erosion and changes in sediment dynamics. This makes it possible to georeference the impacts over a detailed area 5km wide and 30km long on the region’s coast.

The database is part of the project Effects of Climate Change on the Coast of Central America and the Caribbean, which is being implemented by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment, University of Cantabria and ECLAC — which have an agreement to transfer, apply and update the results of the initiative.

The project consists in a series of documents and a support database including a web viewer. Now, this database (which is a major public good for the region) is available for all interested users.

The potential of this tool is relevant for territorial planning, engineering requirements and environmental impact evaluation procedures. It is also useful for the infrastructure sector, for the adjustments that need to be made to existing works and for future requirements.

According to the recently presented fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the impact of this climatic phenomenon is unmistakable throughout the world, with Latin America and the Caribbean being one of the most vulnerable regions (particularly in coastal areas with a large concentration of population and activity).

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