BORGES, P., NG, K and CALADO, H., 2011. Coastal Hazards in the Azores Archipelago - Coastal Storms and Flooding. In: Micallef, A. (ed.), MCRR3-2010 Conference Proceedings, Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, No. 61, pp. 474. Grosseto, Tuscany, Italy, ISSN 0749-0208.
The Azores, a small island archipelago, is vulnerable to coastal hazards because of its limited land availability for anthropic activity and its location in the North Atlantic Ocean. In spite of the presence of extreme hazards, most of the population and economic activities tend to cluster along the coast, thereby amplifying its vulnerability. Furthermore, shorelines are recently experiencing increased pressures as a result of rapid population growth along the coast and associated construction and development. These factors contribute to an increase in human vulnerability to coastal hazards. The increased frequency and intensity of coastal storms in the Azores, as well as associated flooding are becoming growing concerns for its residents. Recent finding indicates that the average storm lasts for 2.3 days and the average storm frequency is 3.1 storms/yr, with the lowest intensity storms occurring four times every five years and extreme event occurring on average once every seven years. The extreme storm usually occurs with southwesterly waves of maximum significant wave height of 11.7 m and highest wave height of 22.2 m, which usually result in coastal flooding. Additionally, probability of coastal flooding is further increased when there is a concurrent storm surge resulting in an amplified mean sea-level. This paper discusses historical coastal storm and flooding events in the Azores (e.g. Christmas Day Storm, 1996), presents their associated social, environmental and economic impacts and damages, and explores the various adaptation and mitigation measures applicable for the Azores.