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Sea-level rise (SLR) has drawn unprecedented attention from coastal communities around the world. In fact, many are already being affected and, in response, SLR vulnerability assessments have increasingly emerged in the US as the local communities’ first attempt on the adaptation planning agenda. However, to date, little is known about these early planning endeavors in terms of how vulnerability is conceptualized and operationalized. By reviewing the current local SLR vulnerability assessments in the US, we find that most are only focusing on their biophysical exposure to SLR overlooking other important vulnerability factors including sensitivity and adaptative capacity. The limited number of SLR scenarios and the lack of consideration for extreme events are also considered as the major deficiencies. To fill these gaps, we propose a conceptual vulnerability assessment framework to operationalize the full concept of vulnerability and test it through a case study in the Tampa Bay region, Florida. By comparing the vulnerability results of the common practice with our proposed framework, we find large variances in the resulting findings stressing the importance of selecting the proper assessment approach. This paper finally concludes with planning implications and future research directions. Coastal planner and managers wanting to improve their understanding of the communities’ vulnerability to SLR will benefit from this study.


Author Accepted Manuscript version of an article published in:

Fu, X., Cities,