Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Melinda Herrold-Menzies

Reader 2

Branwen Williams

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© 2016 Katherine D Franklin


Scientific literature is concerned with the impact that climate change will have on natural disasters in the near future. These events disrupt our daily lives and can cause damage that may never be repaired. Merging science and social science, the study of vulnerability looks at how human systems will be impacted by these natural disasters. In the United States, hurricanes in the Gulf Coast are projected to increase in intensity as well as have an increased capacity for damage with a rise in sea level. Therefore, it is important to understand who is systematically vulnerable to these impacts of natural disasters and how we can mitigate this damage.

Through this thesis, I argue that these impacts of hurricanes will put already vulnerable populations at a greater risk for damage caused by these events in the future. I will briefly outline the scientific basis on which the claims of increased hurricane activity are founded, as well as outline concepts of vulnerability. I examine case studies of Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, both of which can inform how social disparities delineate vulnerability in the United States. Based upon this historical understanding that recovery from a storm is highly contingent upon social and economic resources available to an individual or community, I argue that vulnerable communities must be highlighted. I then project vulnerability based upon demographic characteristics of communities within the Gulf Coast in order to highlight these areas of necessary attention.