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Here's Where California's Coastline Is Collapsing At An Alarming Rate

Exploring California's Central Coast Charms, the rugged Big Sur coastline along Highway 1, between Carmel Highlands and Big Sur, Monterey County, California USA. (Day)

Photo: Getty Images

Thanks to a study done by researchers at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, state officials now have an accurate assessment of the severity of erosion impacting more than 530 miles of California's shoreline.

The study used high resolution data to analyse every cliff along the coast of California. Overall, they found that the less populated bluffs of northern California, which are subject to heavier rain and more intense waves, are eroding faster than those in the south, which have the buffer of more seawalks and cliff hardening devises that slow erision.

The areas of greatest concern were found in the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Big Sur, Point Arguello and Martins Beach just south of San Francisco, where the rate of cliff collapse was more than 16 feet per year.

What's causing the heightened erosion? Buiiding structures and roads on blufftops affects water drainage and can add weight and stress to cliffs. In addition, the rising sea level is forcing waves to hammer the coastine ever harder. Scientest predict that the cliffs along Southern California could erode 130 feet by the end of the century is the sea level continues to rise.

Adam Young, a coastal geomorphologist at Scripps and co-author Zuzanna Swirad of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw used advanced laser-imaging technology and created sophisticaed digital elevation models as part of thier analysis. “By better understanding how the coastline is evolving now,” Young said, “we can make better predictions for the future,” said Young.

Cliff erosion is already causing problems for California, impacting major roads, railways and ciritcal infrastructure, so being able to predict where collapses are likely to take place is important.

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