Sunrise paints the sky pale orange over Coastguard Beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. More than half of all U.S. residents live in coastal counties—and that figure is expected to continue climbing, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Surf and spray scatter as a large wave crashes onto the shore in Palau. More than 250 islands make up the country, a Japanese stronghold during World War II.

Pacific Ocean waves smash the boulder-strewn coast of Iquique, Chile. Waves are the busiest sculptors of coastlines, unleashing their erosive power on the shore. Pounding waves slowly chip away the bases of cliffs, forcing chunks of rock to crumble and slide into the sea.

Sea stacks, like this one shaped like the prow of a ship in Cape Kiwanda State Park, Oregon, are chunks of isolated rock resistant to erosion. They start as part of a headland or sea cliff connected to land. Smashing waves erode the softer rock, leaving harder rock behind in the form of sea stacks.

White-chalk cliffs studded with beech trees form the dramatic coastline of Rugen Island, Germany. Crashing waves from the Baltic Sea sculpted the 400-foot (120-meter) precipices of the island's eastern shore.

Ocean tides comb the waters of coastal Alaska into fanciful eddies and whorls. The ebb and flow of tides help sculpt an array of landforms on coasts worldwide, including spits, barrier islands, and dunes.

Surf hits turf on the coastline of the Chandeleur Islands. Arranged in a crescent along the southeastern coast of Louisiana, the barrier islands are Louisiana's first line of defense from storm damage. The surging waters of Hurricane Katrina submerged half of the low-lying islands.

A sandbar divides the Chukchi Sea, at left, from the Kasegaluk Lagoon, right, near North Slope, Alaska. Sandbars are semi-exposed ridges of sand that waves deposit offshore from a beach. Generally, a stormy season's strong surf builds higher, wider sandbars, whereas gentle seas sculpt smaller sandbars closer to shore.

These unique sandbank formations in the Baltic Sea near Germany were formed about 6,000 years ago when seawaters flooded Germany, fashioning islands, sandbanks, and peninsulas from hilltops of previously dry land. Today, Germany's unique offshore landscape is part of Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft National Park.

Sunset paints the skies over Race Point Beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Lured by scenic ocean views and the sounds of crashing surf, Americans are moving to coastal areas in record numbers, building roads and homes and bringing pollution and population pressures with them.

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