Shoreline change and coastal vulnerability characterization with Landsat imagery: a case study in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Cristina Gomez, Michael A. Wulder, Alastair G. Dawson, William Ritchie, David R. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
61 Downloads (Pure)


Observation of cause-effect patterns of change in coastal environments provides insights into vulnerable areas and supports prediction and adaptation to flooding and erosion. Historic and periodic (6-8 year intervals) imagery from the Landsat archive is used to investigate transformations in the Atlantic coast of two Scottish islands over the period 1989-2011. Supervised classification of spectrally normalized images followed by change detection and spatial analysis reveals the patterns of change and the location of the most dynamic coastal areas. Quantitative measures of recent shifts and movement rates of relevant coastal lines, such as the lower limit of land-based vegetation are assessed with the Digital Shoreline Analysis System (DSAS). While very low rates are indicated for horizontal changes in the position of the lower limit of land-based vegetation (0.3 m y-1), specific areas have been subject to high rates of coastal progradation as well as erosion (e.g., 2.5 m y-1 at Stilligarry). Information derived from satellite data supports the characterization of geomorphologically dynamic coasts at regional scales. With a rich and open access archive of imagery, a commitment to continuity, and compatibility with the Earth observation missions of other space programs, the Landsat mission offers useful and otherwise unavailable data for monitoring of coastal areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-299
Number of pages21
JournalScottish Geographical Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2014


  • shoreline change
  • vulnerability
  • Landsat
  • spatial analysis
  • Digital Shoreline Analysis System
  • Scottish Outer Hebrides


Dive into the research topics of 'Shoreline change and coastal vulnerability characterization with Landsat imagery: a case study in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this