Climatic Change

, Volume 109, Supplement 1, pp 251–276 | Cite as

A methodology for predicting future coastal hazards due to sea-level rise on the California Coast

  • David L. RevellEmail author
  • Robert Battalio
  • Brian Spear
  • Peter Ruggiero
  • Justin Vandever


Sea-level rise will increase the risks associated with coastal hazards of flooding and erosion. Along the active tectonic margin of California, the diversity in coastal morphology complicates the evaluation of future coastal hazards. In this study, we estimate future coastal hazards based on two scenarios generated from a downscaled regional global climate model. We apply new methodologies using statewide data sets to evaluate potential erosion hazards. The erosion method relates shoreline change rates to coastal geology then applies changes in total water levels in exceedance of the toe elevation to predict future erosion hazards. Results predict 214 km2 of land eroded by 2100 under a 1.4 m sea level rise scenario. Average erosion distances range from 170 m along dune backed shorelines, to a maximum of 600 m. For cliff backed shorelines, potential erosion is projected to average 33 m, with a maximum potential erosion distance of up to 400 m. Erosion along the seacliff backed shorelines was highest in the geologic units of Cretaceous marine (K) and Franciscan complex (KJf). 100-year future flood elevations were estimated using two different methods, a base flood elevation approach extrapolated from existing FEMA flood maps, and a total water level approach based on calculations of astronomical tides and wave run-up. Comparison between the flooding methods shows an average difference of about 1.2 m with the total water level method being routinely lower with wider variability alongshore. While the level of risk (actual amount of future hazards) may vary from projected, this methodology provides coastal managers with a planning tool and actionable information to guide adaptation strategies.


Shoreline Change Coastal Hazard Crescent City Flood Elevation Shoreline Change Rate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Funding for this study was provided by the California Ocean Protection Council, with support from Dr. Christine Blackburn. This work was part of a larger vulnerability study completed by the Pacific Institute and funded by the California Energy Commission. In particular, we would like to thank Dr. Peter Gleick, Heather Cooley, and Matt Heberger at the Pacific Institute. We also thank Dr. Dan Cayan of USGS and his climate researchers at Scripps—Dr. Reinhard Flick, Dr. Nick Graham, Mary Tyree and Dr. Peter Bromirski. We thank Guido Franco at the California Energy Commission for encouraging this submittal. We would especially like to thank our technical review team who provided timely input—specifically Dr. Cheryl Hapke, Dr. Adam Young, and Dr. Gary Griggs. Dr. Bill O’Reilly of the Coastal Data Information Program voluntarily provided the nearshore wave transformations necessary to improve the spatial resolution of these hazard predictions. Other members of the scientific community who contributed in different ways included Dr. Patrick Barnard, Dr. Kiki Patsch, Dr. Paul Komar, Brian Fulfrost, Lesley Ewing, Clif Davenport, Kim Sterratt, and Nicole Kinsman. Other members of PWA who supported this work include: Jeremy Lowe, Seungjin Baek, Damien Kunz, and Brad Evans. We would also like to thank 3 anonymous reviewers who provided good comments to improve this contribution. Finally, the authors would like to thank the ocean for inspiring and humbling all of our efforts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • David L. Revell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert Battalio
    • 1
  • Brian Spear
    • 1
  • Peter Ruggiero
    • 2
  • Justin Vandever
    • 1
  1. 1.Philip Williams and Associates, Ltd.San FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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