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Potential impact of sea level rise on the geomorphology of Kuwait state coastline

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Sea level rise (SLR) is one of the most severe risks threatening coastal zones all over the world. In Kuwait, coastal areas accommodate about 90% of the total population and most of the urban area. Thus, SLR is expected to have significant impacts on Kuwaiti coastal areas, which may lead to changes in their ecosystems and the geomorphological units in the coastal area. This paper aims to assess the impacts of SLR on the geomorphology of the Kuwaiti coastline under two different scenarios of SLR: an integrated analysis model involving a variety of methods and a composite vulnerability index integrating five criteria. The results revealed that about 58% of the total coastal area is susceptible to inundation under 1-and 2-m SLR scenario, whereas 8.3% of Kuwaiti coastal areas have moderate to high vulnerability levels. Moreover, it was found that SLR may have significant implications for some Kuwaiti coastal areas including expanding sabkhas areas, shoreline retreat, changing coastal hydrodynamics, and erosion patterns and accelerated weathering process. To avoid such potential impacts, it is essential to develop a national strategy for adaptation to SLR impact and mainstreaming adaptation into development plans.
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ORIGINAL PAPER
Potential impact of sea level rise on the geomorphology of Kuwait
state coastline
Ahmed Hassan
1
&Mahmoud A. Hassaan
2
Received: 15 July 2020 /Accepted: 2 October 2020
#Saudi Society for Geosciences 2020
Abstract
Sea level rise (SLR) is one of the most severe risks threatening coastal zones all over the world. In Kuwait, coastal areas
accommodate about 90% of the total population and most of the urban area. Thus, SLR is expected to have significant impacts
on Kuwaiti coastal areas, which may lead to changes in their ecosystems and the geomorphological units in the coastal area. This
paper aims to assess the impacts of SLR on the geomorphology of the Kuwaiti coastline under two different scenarios of SLR: an
integrated analysis model involving a variety of methods and a composite vulnerability index integrating five criteria. The results
revealed that about 58% of the total coastal area is susceptible to inundation under 1- and 2-m SLR scenario, whereas 8.3% of
Kuwaiti coastal areas have moderate to high vulnerability levels. Moreover, it was found that SLR may have significant
implications for some Kuwaiti coastal areas including expanding sabkhas areas, shoreline retreat, changing coastal hydrody-
namics, and erosion patterns and accelerated weathering process. To avoid such potential impacts, it is essential to develop a
national strategy for adaptation to SLR impact and mainstreaming adaptation into development plans.
Keywords Sea level rise (SLR) .Coastal Geomorphology .Climate Changes .GIS .RS
Introduction
Coastal zones are of great importance for economic and wel-
fare of human communities accommodating a large portion of
world population and valuable assets such as ports, cities,
heritage monuments, tourist locations, and infrastructures
(Dhanalakshmi et al. 2019). For example, it was estimated
that more than 600 million of the worlds population live in
areas less than 10 m above mean sea-level, (Janin and Scott
2012) and two-thirds of the worlds cities with populations
over 5 million are found in coastal areas. Coastal zones are
dynamic ecosystems with a complex range of interrelated nat-
ural and anthropogenic processes.
Generally, global warming leads to global sea level rise
(SLR) because of two main mechanisms: thermal expansion of
ocean water and the melting of ice sheets at the poles (Neelamani
and Al-Shatti 2014). These two mechanisms have led to a no-
ticeable rise in global sea level during the last two decades. In
this respect, it was estimated that global sea is expected to rise
25 cm during the period 19802020 (Fig. 1). One of the most
significant challenges that threaten coastal environments across
the world is SLR that is expected to inundate wide areas of low-
lying coastal areas all over the world (Alsahli and AlHasem
2016). For instance, it is estimated that about 33% of coastal
and wetland habitats are likely to be lost by 2100 due to expected
SLR (IPCC 2014 and 2019). This, in turn, highlights the need
for a systematic approach to evaluate the potential impacts of
SLR on shorelines (Al-Nasrawi et al. 2018; Dhanalakshmi et al.
2019; Masselink and Russell 2013).
Many of the geomorphological processes and factors of coast-
lines are related to sea level. For example, on rocky shores,
bioerosion at mean sea-level forms mid littoral notches and tidal
platforms. This is best developed on limestone, where they are
carved by boring and grazing organisms and/or dissolved and
abraded by wave action being a combination of physical, chem-
ical, and biological erosion (Stewart and Morhange 2009;
Oppenheimer et al. 2019; Al-Awadhi et al. 2020). Thus, it can
Responsible Editor: Stefan Grab
*Ahmed Hassan
ameh812000@gmail.com
Mahmoud A. Hassaan
mhassaan@alexu.edu.eg
1
Ministry of Education, Kuwait, Kuwait
2
Institute of Graduate Studies and Research, Alexandria University,
Alexandria, Egypt
Arabian Journal of Geosciences (2020) 13:1139
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12517-020-06084-1
be argued that expected sea level rise may have significant im-
pacts on the geomorphology of coastal areas. Varied estimates
for future global and downscaled SLR during the twenty-first
century vary between 0.56 and 1.53 m on average (Table 1)
(IPCC 2007;IPCC2014; Jevrejeva et al. 2010; Pfeffer et al.
2008; Rahmstorf 2007; Rohling et al. 2008; Vermeer and
Rahmstorf 2009;Churchetal.2013;Hassaan2013). Due to
significant impacts of expected SLR, the physical vulnerability
of coastal areas to inundation by SLR in different parts of the
worldparticularly in low-lying subsiding Deltashas been re-
peatedly studied since mid-1990s (EL Raey et al. 1995; El Raey
1997; van der Meij and Minnema 1999; Nicholls 2002;Alpar
2009; Snoussi et al. 2009; Smith et al. 2010; Hereher 2015;
Darwish et al. 2017). Additionally, other studies have been con-
ducted on the impacts SLR has on agriculture activities in coastal
zones (Abdrabo and Hassaan 2014; Abdrabo et al. 2015).
In Kuwait specifically, the vulnerability to inundation by
SLR has been briefly studied. For example, SLR impacts on
Kuwaiti coasts were assessed, and areas susceptible to inun-
dation under five different SLR scenarios ranging from 1 to 5
m were delineated by Neelamani and Al-Shatti (2014). Their
assessment and delineation were based on an online tool
(http://flood.firetree.net/). Also, the potential impacts of sea
level rise on the coastal zone of Kuwait were assessed based
on satellite imagery based DEMs (SRTM DEM 90 m, see
Redha 2015). More recently, the vulnerability of Kuwaits
coast to SLR was assessed using a coastal vulnerability index
(CVI) map (see Alsahli and AlHasem 2016). Despite the sig-
nificant impacts of SLR on coastal geomorphology in terms of
redistribution of coastal landformsand particularly subtidal
bedforms, intertidal flats, saltmarshes, sand dunes, cliffs, and
coastal low-lying land (cf., Pethick and Crooks 2000)only a
limited number of previous studies consider SLR impacts on
coastal geomorphology (cf., Crooks 2004;Frenchand
Burningham 2013). This paper is intended to assess the im-
pacts of SLR on the geomorphology of Kuwaitscoastlineup
Table 1 Different projections of
global sea level rise up to the year
2100
Authors Scenario timescale Minimum value (m) Maximum value (m)
IPCC 2007 2100 0.18 0.59
IPCC 2014 2100 0.45 0.82
Jevrejeva et al. 2010 2100 0.60 1.60
Pfeffer et al. 2008 2100 0.80 2.00
Rahmstorf 2007 2100 0.50 1.40
Rohling et al. 2008 2100 0.60 2.50
Vermeer and Rahmstorf 2009 2100 0.81 1.79
Average 0.56 1.53
Source: (Neves et al. 2013; IPCC 2014)
Fig. 1 SLR in the period 1880
2020. Source: https://www.csiro.
au/
1139 Page 2 of 16 Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139
to the year 2100 under two hypothetical SLR scenarios: 1 and
2 m. Such an assessment can support policy making process in
terms of developing adaptation strategies that will help protect
the valuable assets of Kuwaiti coastal areas.
Fig. 2 Some general geographical attributes of the coastal area of the State of Kuwait. (a) Kuwaits coastal region or parts, (b) surface sediments map, (c)
slope map, (d) types of beaches. Sources: Landsat 8 OLI; DEM, Kuwait municipality; EMISK 2012; El-kasaby 2014; Al-Yamani et al. 2004
Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139 Page 3 of 16 1139
Materials and methods
Study area
The State of Kuwait lies between latitudes 28° 30and 30° 05
N and longitudes 46° 33and 48° 30E, covering an approxi-
mate area of 18,000 km
2
. Kuwait is bordered by the Arabian
Gulf from the East, Iraq from the North and West, and Saudi
Arabia from the South. In general, the Kuwaiti mainland is
characterized by low relief with the highest elevation being
295 m (Al-Yamani et al. 2004). Kuwait has an arid to semiarid
climate, with an average annual precipitation of 129 mm (KMD
2020), and prevalence of northwest winds. Its summers are very
hot, with a maximum mean temperature of 50 °C, and its win-
ters are warm. The Kuwaiti coastline, which extends from north
to south for about 414.9 km, can be subdivided into 3 sectors:
Northern, Kuwait Bay, and Southern coasts (Fig. 2a).
Geological formations along the coastal region of Kuwait
belong to three types of sediments: Fars and Ghar formations,
Pleistocene formations, and Holocene formationswith pro-
portional areas of 28, 22.9, and 49.1% of the total coastal
region area, respectively (Al-sulamimi and Mukhopadhyay
2000; Austria 1968; Kuwait oil company (KOC) 1980).
These formations are characterized by loose and fragile sandy
deposits (Fig. 2b) which are highly susceptible to coastal ero-
sion due to SLR and increased wave power and accelerated
decay (weathering) processes.
Kuwaits topography is characterized by a flat coastal
plain (Kleo et al. 2003;Picha1978), with territorial waters
estimated at 7611 km
2
. These waters can be divided into
two parts: the shallow northern area, which is less than 5-m
deep in most places with a muddy bed, and the relatively deep
southern area, which has a bed of sand and silica deposits
(Neelamani and Al-Shatti 2014). Generally, the Kuwaiti
coastal areas have gentle, gradual slopes representing about
40.1% in the coastal region, with an average slope of the
coastal region at about 4.8° (Fig. 2c). According to sediment
grain size, the coastline of Kuwait can be divided into four
main categories: sandy beaches, rocky beaches, muddy
beaches, and sandy muddy beaches, representing 40.%3,
28.5%, 23.6%, and 7.6% of the total area of natural beaches,
respectively (El-kasaby 2014)(Fig.2d).
Methodology
To assess various potential SLR impacts on the geomorphol-
ogy of Kuwaiti coastal areas, a methodology of three main
steps was developed (Fig. 3).
&Step 1: Assessing physical vulnerability. This step was
concerned with delineating areas susceptible to inundation
by SLR. For this purpose, a geodatabase of Kuwait coastal
area was created through ArcGIS 10.8 desktop (2020)
(https://desktop.arcgis.com/en/). To develop such a
geodatabase, various data sources were employed such
as Landsat-8 OLI satellite image, drone image for some
beaches and locations, Google Earth pro imagery, and
field surveying to collect ground control point by GPS
Garmin Etrex20. Also, a Digital Elevation Model
(DEM), which was produced through aerial survey under-
taken in 2012, was acquired from the Kuwait Municipality
survey department. Additionally, all geomorphological
units and surface sediments were digitized based on satel-
lite imagery, fieldwork, and a map from the Environment
Public Authority (EMISK 2012). The developed
geodatabase consists of six layers, including: coastal area,
Fig. 3 Flowchart for
methodology of potential SLR
impact in Kuwait
1139 Page 4 of 16 Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139
DEM, Slope, surface sediments, coastline geomorpholog-
ical landforms, and land use/land cover.
Field visits were undertaken in order to make site investi-
gation and photography of phenomena by digital camera and
drone (DJI, Mavic2 pro). The developed geodatabase was
then employed in assessing the vulnerability to inundation
by SLR through comparing elevation information of each re-
gion of different Kuwaiti coastal areas with expected SLR at
both 1 m and 2 m, to delineate vulnerable areas.
&Step 2: Impact Assessment. On the vulnerability map,
different socioeconomic impacts of inundation by SLR
were assessed in Boubyan Island and the north coast of
Kuwait, Failaka Island, Kuwait Bay, and the southern
coast. Also, various geomorphological impacts of SLR
on tidal flats and sabkhas, sandy beaches, and coastal hy-
drodynamic and erosion patterns accelerating decay
(weathering) processes were identified. Moreover, to
assess the vulnerability of Kuwaiti coastal areas to
SLR impacts comprehensively, a composite vulnerabil-
ityindexwasdevelopedintegratingfivemaincriteria:
elevation, surface sediments, geomorphology, slopes,
and land use.
&Step 3: Developing an adaptation strategy. Based upon the
identified impacts, various potential adaptation options
were suggested to improve the resilience of Kuwaiti coast-
al areas under different scenarios of SLR.
Fig. 4 Vulnerable area under 1
and 2 m of SLR scenarios
Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139 Page 5 of 16 1139
Results and discussions
Socio-economic impacts under different SLR scenarios
Assuming SLR scenarios of 1 and 2 m, a considerable portion
of Kuwaiti coastal areas are vulnerable to inundation (Fig. 4).
Those vulnerable parts include considerable areas of Boubyan
Island and the northern coast of Kuwait, Failaka Island, Kuwait
Bay, and the southern coast. The total area of vulnerable regions
is expected to be 623.95 km
2
and 1155.01 km
2
under the 1- and
2-m SLR scenarios, respectively. These areas represent about
3.5% and 6.4% of the total Kuwaiti Territory (Table 2).
Effects on Boubyan Island and north coast
Boubyan Island is located in the northeast of Kuwait covering a
total area of 850 km
2
(Neelamani and Al-Shatti 2014). It is ex-
pected that more than half of the island area will disappear under
the waters of the Arabian Gulf in both 1- and 2-m SLR scenarios.
Meanwhile, the remaining portion of the island will be vulnerable
to waterlogging due to higher groundwater levels (Fig. 4).
AccordingtotheBoubyanMasterPlandevelopedin2005(Fig.
5a), several projects are planned for the island, with total invest-
ments of US$ 410 million (Omar and Roy 2014;Neelamaniand
Al-Shatti 2014). Under a businessasusualscenario, such in-
vestments may be lost unless an appropriate action is undertaken
to protect the island from such potential risk and its associated
impacts. Also, it is anticipated that natural ecosystems on the
island and the hydrodynamic regime and sediment transport dy-
namics in the northern zone will be altered. In this respect, it was
suggested that SLR may lead to an increase in the total tidal prism
and current velocities in the channels, which consequently will
have significant implications on suspended sediment concentra-
tion, erosion, and deposition. Moreover, SLR will affect the rate
of tidal wave propagation that causes a modification of the flood/
ebb dominance ratio (Environment Public Authority 2012).
Effects on Failaka Island
Failaka Island is one of the landmarks in Kuwait with historical
importance (Hassan et al. 2020); therefore, the island is planned
to be developed as a tourism hub in Kuwait including a protec-
torate, a residential area, and a tourist marina (Fig. 5b,seealso
Hassan et al. 2020) that involves a total investment of US$ 2.4
billion (KUNA 2004). The vulnerability assessment revealed that
one-third of the island will disappear under the sea in case of sea
Fig. 5 Master plan of Boubyan and Failaka Island. (a) Boubyan Island and north coast, (b)Failaka Island. Sources: Kuwait Municipality 2005;Omarand
Roy 2014
Table 2 The expected inundated area under 1 and 2 m of SLR scenarios
SLR scenarios Inundation area (km
2
) % of total Kuwaiti territory
1 m 623.95 3.5
2 m 1155.01 6.4
1139 Page 6 of 16 Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139
level rise of 2 m (Neelamani and Al-Shatti 2014)(Fig.4). It has
been observed in recent decades that the sabkhas on the island
have expanded, perhaps due to higher levels of groundwater
tables associated with SLR. The expansion of sabkhas on the
island can be attributed partially to increased rainfall in some
seasons, as happened in the winter of 2018 (Al-Matar et al. 2020).
Effects on Kuwait Bay
Compared with Boubyan and Failaka islands, Kuwait Bay will
be less vulnerable to SLR impacts (Fig. 4). The northern coast
of Kuwait bay is expected to be less vulnerable to SLR impacts
as it accommodates limited human activities and is dominated
by natural geomorphological landforms such as tidal flats, sand
sheets, and coastal dunes. Thus, even if affected by flooding,
there is a little risk at end of Jaber Bridge (Fig. 4). Meanwhile,
the southern coast of Kuwait Bay, where Kuwait City and many
urban areas are located, is highly vulnerable to SLR impacts
compared with the north coast of Kuwait Bay.
Effects on the southern coast
A relatively low-lying Kuwaiti southern coast, extending from
Ras Aljulauh at the southern border with Saudi Arabia, is
highly vulnerable to SLR impacts (Fig. 4). The model showed
that nearly 30% of the AlKhiran area will be inundated by
SLR under a 2-m scenario (Neelamani and Al-Shatti 2014;
Redha 2015). The area has been experiencing rapid urban
development that will be threatened if potential risks associ-
ated with SLR are overlooked. Under a scenario of 1-m SLR,
it is expected that the area of coastal sabkhas will increase and
the sandy beaches along the southern coast will suffer from
increasing erosion rates. Under a 2-m SLR event, however,
sea channels adjacent to the coastal area will be inundated by
the sea, and the sabkhas will reach Highway 40.
SLR impacts on coastal geomorphology
The expected SLR may have significant implications for the
geomorphology of Kuwaits coastline. Designing long-term
coastal management plans to adapt to SLR impacts requires
accurate and detailed assessment of coastal vulnerability to
these impacts (Alsahli and AlHasem 2016). These impacts
may involve the expanding sabkhas area, shoreline
retreatment and loss of sandy beaches, changing coastal hy-
drodynamic patterns, and accelerated decay (weathering)
mechanisms. For validation purposes, field visits were under-
taken to collect observations and evidence on these impacts.
Expanding sabkhas
Coastal sabkhas are spread in many parts alongside the
Kuwaiti coast from north to south (Fig. 6a). They are generally
located above sea-level in the high tidal conditions, below the
5-m contour line (Al-Hussaini 1988;Al-Ghadban1980;Al-
Hurban and Al-Sulaimi 2009;Hassan2018).
Sabkhas in this region have general tendency to move land-
ward, especially in the northern Kuwaiti coast. The northern
coast sabkhas are mostly wet, parallel to the coastline, and adja-
cent to the high tide line. In fact, there are some sabkhas that are
directly bordered by the coastline, and many highland waters are
often flooded at high tide (Al-Ajami 2008). While of Kuwait
Bays sabkhas are located at a relatively high-level ranging be-
tween 2.5 and 5.5 m above mean sea level (El-Sheikh 1992), it is
expected that any slight rise in sea-level may lead, directly or
indirectly, to an increase in the area of adjacent sabkhas.
Similarly, marine terraces usually play a crucial role in providing
Fig. 6 (a) Distribution of sabkhas alongside the Kuwaiti coastal region, (b) Changes in sabkhas areas (19852019). Source: EMISK 2012; El-Baz and
Al-Sarawi 2000; Al-Dalamah and Al-Hurban 2019, with modifications from, Landsat 8 OLI)
Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139 Page 7 of 16 1139
natural protection for the coastal areas, and marine terraces in the
Kuwait Bay area are generally located 13 m above mean sea
level (Fig. 7)(Al-Asfour1975), which means the lower eleva-
tion marine terraces (at or below 1 m) may be vulnerable to
submergence under 1- and 2-m SLR scenarios. Indirectly, SLR
may lead to higher levels of the groundwater, which in turn may
affect infrastructure and building foundations along the coastal
areas. Furthermore, the sand sheets and coastal nebkhas (shrub-
coppice dunes) in the terrestrial portion of the coastal zone will
be affected (Fig. 8) with significant environmental implications
(Burt 2014; Neelamani 2017; Lokier 2013).
Shoreline retreat and loss of sandy beaches
Beach data are usually used for estimating shoreline dynamics
and characterizing beach morphology and typology (Pierre
et al. 2019). Different parts of Kuwaiti coasts have been
experiencing varied rates of erosion/accretion. For example,
Fig. 8 Tidal flats, low muddy beaches, coastal sabkhas, and coastal sanddune in the Northern coastof Kuwait. Taken by drone Mavic2 pro, altitude 355
m, May 2019. Ground control point taken by GPS Garmin Etrex20. The contour lines drawn through GCP and DEM
Fig. 7 Marine terraces and coastal sabkhas in Sulaibikhat area in Kuwait Bay (Location, 29° 1923.61 N, 47° 5215.87 E). Taken by drone Mavic2 pro,
altitude 85 m, May 2019
1139 Page 8 of 16 Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139
it was estimated that during the period 2016 to 2019, the
erosion rate at Marina Beach and Alblajat Beach (Fig. 9)
was 710 m/year, while the northern beaches in Kuwait have
an annual accretion rate of 4 m (Alsahli and Almutairi 2019).
Generally, SLR will accelerate erosion of Kuwaiti sandy
beaches, which are generally characterized by a gentle slope
of 7.5° on average (El-kasaby 2014). The fieldwork in
May 2019 revealed that Kuwaiti sandy beaches have two
types of sediments: sandy deposits in the form of conglomer-
ates and artificially created beaches.Table 3summarizes some
morphometric characteristics of two examples for these types.
These deposits are highly exposed to erosion by coastal cur-
rents, waves and tides, and general decay (weathering) pro-
cesses (Torab 2011;Goudie2004). Such exposure is expected
to accelerate under SLR and consequent retreatment of coast-
line leading to loss of wide areas of sandy beaches.
Fig. 9 The potential impact of SLR on some beaches of Kuwait. Marina
beach (29° 2038.24 N, 48° 355.90 E) and AlBlagat beach (29° 203.73
N, 48° 541.38 E). (a) Google Earth pro image showing AlArd headland
in Salmiya city. (b) The effect of shoreline moving upward with SLR,
scenario of 1 and 2 m. Source of bAerial photo, taken by drone Mavic2
pro, altitude 45 m, May 2019. Ground control point taken by GPS Garmin
Etrex20. The contour lines are drawn through GCP and DEM
Table 3 Morphometric characteristics ofMarina and AlBlagat beach
two important beaches in Kuwait
Beach Length (m) Width Area (m
2
) Perimeter (km)
Marina beach 536 81 46723 1.28
AlBlagat beach 1765 126 235123 3.75
Source: Measurements from Google Earth Pro, 2020, Imagery date 30/1/
2020
Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139 Page 9 of 16 1139
Fig. 10 The effects of SLR on some recreational facilities in ALFintas
Beach. (a) Google Earth images showing coastal facilities and offshore
infrastructures in AlFintas beach and show some coastal landforms. (b)
Marine erosion bay after storm waves, location 29° 1044.95 N: 48° 7
21.07 E. Source: an oblique image taken by Mavic2 pro drone, altitude 35
m. (c, d, and e) Land photos to the destruction of the walkway and the
concrete wall that protects the beach in 2014 and 2019
1139 Page 10 of 16 Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139
Accordingly, studying and tracking changes in the shoreline
and its rate of retreat and progress help in understanding geo-
morphological processes.
Changing coastal hydrodynamic and erosion patterns
As a result of SLR, the depth of water near offshore areas will
increase, leading to greater wave intensity and accelerated coastal
erosion. It should be noted that the destructive impact of coastal
hydrodynamics is generally aggravated by unplanned develop-
ment projects that are closely located adjacent to the high-water
level (Leatherman. 2017), particularly under the absence of reg-
ulation for a setback line. In this respect, it was noticed that there
are some touristic recreational facilities located directly in front of
the shoreline. For instance, AlFintas beach, which was created in
2013, was exposed to storm waves during winter seasons of 2014
and 2019 leading to destruction of the walkway and some facil-
ities (Fig. 10). In a Google Earth image (Fig. 9a), three erosion
bays in the middle of the beach can be observed, and in the east, a
concrete wall and rock blocks to protect the walkway can be seen.
The example of AlFintas Beach illustrates potential impacts of
SLR on costal hydrodynamics and its accompanying erosion
patterns. It is expected with changes in SLR, the erosion bays
may increase all over the coasts of the State of Kuwait, and this
point needs separate study and research to track the changes to
understand and track the future of coastal erosion on Kuwait.
Accelerating weathering processes
The geological formations and surface sediments in the coastal
zone, which are sandy and calcareous, date to the Pleistocene
and Holocene periods. Owing to the rocks composition then,
increasing water heightwhether due to the high tide or the
rise of the groundwater levelleads usually to accelerate de-
cay (weathering) processes such as enhanced salt decay (Torab
2011). Mechanical, chemical, and biological rock decay pro-
cesses act to break down the strata in situ, altering material
properties and behaviors, producing sediment, and preparing
materials for erosion and transport (Coombes 2014;Dornetal.
2013). As a result, landforms seen along the Kuwaiti coastline
(e.g., tidal swamps, old and new beaches, marine platforms,
marine terraces) can be attributed to these various rock decay
processes (Fig. 11). It is generally expected that SLR will ac-
celerate the decay processes on most rocky and sandy beaches
of Kuwait. Yet, understanding the consequences of decay is
hampered by poor understanding of the mechanisms, their re-
lationships to environmental controls, and the lack of long,
reliable records (Trenhaile 2014;Dornetal.2013).
Composite vulnerability index
Coastal areas of Kuwait display many landforms that are re-
main highly susceptible to decay and erosional processes
beaches, barriers, marshes, sabkhas, etc.in addition to
hosting a wide range (90%) of human activities. Owing to this
continually high amount of activity along Kuwaitscoast,to
assess the States vulnerability of coastal area to SLR in an
integrated manner, a composite vulnerability index was sug-
gested. The index considers five main criteria: elevation, sur-
face sediments, geomorphology, slopes, and land use. For
each of these criteria, different parts of the coastal areas were
ranked on a scale from one to three, where 1refers to the
Fig. 11 Differential decay features on Failaka island in Kuwait. Source: an oblique image taken by Mavic2 pro drone, altitude 25 m
Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139 Page 11 of 16 1139
lowest level of vulnerability and 3indicates the highest level
of vulnerability. After applying an equal weighing scheme,
the five criteria were aggregated, and a composite vulnerabil-
ity index was calculated.
The composite vulnerability index of Kuwaiti coastal areas
revealed that the northern and southern cost of Kuwait had the
highest level of vulnerability compared with the Kuwait Bay
coast (Fig. 12). It was also found that about 1494.6 km
2
of the
Kuwaiti coastal area, or 8.3% of the area of the State of
Kuwait, has a moderate to high level of vulnerability in SLR
impacts (Table 4).
Potential adaptation options
According to Kuwaits master plan, many parts of Kuwait
particularly areas 1, 2, 4, and 6 (Fig. 13)which are intended
Fig. 12 Vulnerability index of
Kuwait coastline for inundation
by 1- and 2-m scenarios
1139 Page 12 of 16 Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139
to accommodate a variety of development projects, are highly
vulnerable to SLR impacts. Fortunately, the future risks will
likely occur gradually, giving policy and decision-makers the
opportunity to develop appropriate adaptation strategies in a
proactive manner(Americas Climate Choices
2016; NASA 2020). In this respect, the master and urban
development plans prepared by the State should be
reconsidered to relocate future development away from coast-
al areas, whose elevation range from 0 to 3 m, to avoid the
potential impacts of SLR. The state has begun to protect the
urban area through protective engineering works and revet-
ment projects, such as concrete walls and artificial beaches
(Fig. 13 a and b). However, these engineering works are
designed and established to slow down coastline retreat
due to current patterns of coastal hydrodynamics that are
expected to alter under future scenarios of SLR (Le
Cozannet et al. 2020). This requires examining, simulating,
and predicting the effectiveness of such engineering works
to deal with SLR impacts in the future under different
scenarios.
With the average tide in most Kuwaiti coastal regions being
nearly 3 m, and the occurrence of storm waves, potential
problems arising from a 1- to 2-m SLR are only exacerbated.
In other words, if the average tide is already 3 m, it would
increase to 4 or 5 m, in 1- and 2-m SLR scenarios, respective-
ly. That means some places will need to be raised, and some
facilities will need to be relocated inland, away from the coast.
With a 12-m SLR, many parts of the coast of Kuwait will
also need defenses against storm waves that are expected to be
more frequent due to climate change and associated SLR.
Some large and important coastal installations will need ap-
propriate protection strategies as well. For example, more than
half of AlShuwaikh port is expected to be inundated under 1-
and 2-m SLR scenarios, and without proper mitigation, this
could lead to catastrophic economic consequences. Such im-
portant and vital institutions will need innovative solutions to
protect them (Goudie and Viles 2016).
Conclusion
Two main hypothetical sea level rise (SLR) scenariosone at
1-m level and one at 2-m levelwere applied to assess the
a
b
Fig. 13 National physical plan strategy 20052030. (a and b represent some formsof engineering protection works) (Source: Kuwait Municipality 2005;
Ministry of Public Works Portal 2020)
Table 4 Areas and
percentagesofcoastal
flooding in the State of
Kuwait
Index Area (km
2
)%
Low 154.77 0.86
Moderate 953.85 5.35
High 540.79 3.03
Total 1649.41 9.24
Arab J Geosci (2020) 13:1139 Page 13 of 16 1139
potential impacts of SLR on the geomorphology of the
Kuwaiti coastline. The vulnerability assessment showed that
four sectors of the Kuwaiti coastal area would be affected:
Boubyan Island, Failaka Island, the northern coast of Kuwait
Bay, and the Al-Khiran area along the southern coast. An
integrated vulnerability assessment of SLR impacts using a
composite vulnerability index showed that about 953.85 km
2
and 540.79 km
2
of Kuwaiti coastal areas have moderate and
high vulnerability levels SLR impacts, respectively.
According to a business as usualscenario (i.e., if nothing
changes), the human activities and infrastructure located at the
coastal areas in these sectors will be threatened, and potential
damage could increase significantly. In other words, if the
state does not develop a national strategy for adaptation to
SLR brought on by continuing climate change, the Kuwaiti
coastal areas will be highly vulnerable to coastal flooding,
accelerated erosion rates, and destruction of some key instal-
lations and infrastructure. This highlights the need for under-
standing the general evolution of Kuwaitscoastand
projecting socio-economic and demographic conditions in
the coastal zone of the study area up to the year 2100. Such
an assessment is of great importance to estimate the potential
impacts of SLR on future socio-economic settings.
Compliance with ethical standards
Competing interests The authors declare that they have no competing
interests.
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