Changes in Exposure to Flood Hazards in the United States Academic Article uri icon


  • 2017 by American Association of Geographers. This article conducts a national, county-based assessment of the changes in population and urban areas in high-risk flood zones from 2001 to 2011 in the contiguous United States. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) 100-year flood maps, land cover data, and census data were used to extract the proportion of developed (urban) land in flood zones by county at the two time points, and indexes of difference were calculated. Local Moran's I statistic was applied to identify hot spots of increase in urban area in flood zones, and geographically weighted regression was used to estimate the population in flood zones from the land cover data. Results show that in 2011, an estimate of about 25.3million people (8.3 percent of the total population) lived in high-risk flood zones. Nationally, the ratio of urban development in flood zones is less than the ratio of land in flood zones, implying that Americans were responsive to flood hazards by avoiding development in flood zones. This trend varied from place to place, however, with coastal counties having less urban development in flood zones than the inland counties. Furthermore, the contrast between coastal and inland counties increased between 2001 and 2011. Finally, several exceptions from the trend (hot spots) were detected, most notably in New York City and Miami, where significant increases in urban development in flood zones were found. This assessment provides important baseline information on the spatial patterns of flood exposure and their changes from 2001 to 2011. The study pinpoints regions that might need further investigations and better policy to reduce the overall flood risks.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 232.78

author list (cited authors)

  • Qiang, Y. i., Lam, N., Cai, H., & Zou, L.

citation count

  • 27

complete list of authors

  • Qiang, Yi||Lam, Nina SN||Cai, Heng||Zou, Lei

publication date

  • January 2017