Environment & Science

Significant Southern California beach erosion on the way, study says

Exposed bedrock on the beach below the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Exposed bedrock on the beach below the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Daniel Hoover, U.S. Geological Survey

A new study predicts that with limited human intervention 31 percent to 67 percent of Southern California beaches could completely erode back to coastal infrastructure or sea cliffs by the year 2100 with sea-level rises of 3.3 feet (1 meter) to 6.5 feet (2 meters).

The study released Monday used a new computer model called CoSMoS (for Coastal Storm Modeling System) to predict shoreline effects caused by sea level rise and changes in storm patterns due to climate change.

The study's lead author, Sean Vitousek, says erosion of Southern California beaches is not just a matter of the region losing its identity and tourism dollars, but of exposing critical infrastructure, businesses and homes to damage.

An example of the shoreline data for La Jolla Shores in San Diego County, used in the CoSMoS COAST model. The many squiggly colored lines indicate the changing location of the shoreline through time.
An example of the shoreline data for La Jolla Shores in San Diego County, used in the CoSMoS COAST model. The many squiggly colored lines indicate the changing location of the shoreline through time.
Basemaps from Google Earth; Sean Vitousek, U.S. Geological Survey

The study has been accepted for publication by the American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface.