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Meeting of Experts on Key Drivers of Central California Coastal Change and Inundation Due to Climate Change

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Curt Storlazzi addressing workshop participants
Above: Curt Storlazzi (USGS, standing) addressing workshop participants including (left to right) David Jay (Portland State University), Patrick Barnard (USGS), and Larry Breaker (Moss Landing Marine Laboratories). [larger version]

Over the past year, a number of federal, state, and local governments, along with research institutions and nonprofit organizations, have met several times, in different combinations, to address adaptation to climate change along the coast of California. There has been great demand for understanding the local impacts of future sea-level rise and coastal inundation in order to develop adaptation strategies that can be incorporated into local planning. Although these meetings have determined how the different agencies should deal with climate change, it has become evident that a clear understanding of the local and regional impacts of climate change is still lacking—specifically, how sea-level rise, storms, and inundation will manifest themselves and impact the coast. To help address these issues, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center (PCMSC) partnered with Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) and Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) to hold a workshop bringing together experts on climate change and the relevant physical processes that will impact the central California coast in the future.

On Wednesday, May 16, 2012, Larry Breaker (MLML) hosted the workshop at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, with funding provided by the Center for Ocean Solutions. The goal of COS’s Climate Change Initiative is to bring the research and decision-making communities together to advance the collective understanding of the expected impacts of climate change on ocean and coastal systems, to improve the translation of that knowledge into actionable concepts, and to incorporate it into adaptation decision making and funding programs. Larry Crowder (COS Science Director) and Adina Abeles (COS Director of Education and Training) provided overall guidance and support for the workshop. Curt Storlazzi (USGS-PCMSC) led the workshop and developed the science agenda with Patrick Barnard (USGS-PCMSC).

The workshop’s morning session was a review of the latest understanding (including quite a bit of “in press” work) of modeled climate-change impacts on the key drivers of coastal change and inundation. Dan Cayan (USGS, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] Working Group II, and National Research Council Committee for Sea Level Rise in California, Oregon, and Washington) presented predicted temperatures and sea-level-rise scenarios based on a suite of global climate models. Peter Bromirski (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) presented results of using global-climate-model wind forcing to hindcast (that is, test model outputs against past conditions) and forecast wave heights and periods for California. David Jay (Portland State University) showed how sea-level rise has affected the tidal constituents and tidal range along the U.S. west coast and how climate change may be affecting the position of tidal amphidromes (nodal points) in the Pacific Ocean. Xiaochun Wang (National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] Jet Propulsion Laboratory) showed how Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) modeling in the eastern North Pacific Ocean has identified the temporal and spatial variability of mesoscale (typically 1 to 100 kilometers in horizontal extent) circulation patterns affecting upwelling and downwelling—and thus water levels—along the coast of California. Jerry Weber (University of California, Santa Cruz, emeritus) provided insight on the local geologic setting and its role in controlling relative sea-level trends and coastal change, and he linked the distribution of rock types along the coast to a differential potential for shoreline erosion under predicted future sea levels. Workshop participants also included Li Erikson (USGS-PCMSC) and researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), University of California Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Services Center, NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, California State Coastal Conservancy, and ESA Associates.

In the afternoon, the participants determined that despite the wealth of information on the relevant processes, we still do not have sufficient information to provide reasonable estimates of future sea-level rise and inundation along the central California coast. The group outlined some specific needs for information—for example, downscaling the global climate models to provide kilometer-scale output offshore of the California coast, and then using those results to drive regional wave models; acquiring nearshore morphology on which to project waves and model inundation; and monitoring coastal response to storms in order to build datasets for calibrating and validating numerical models of inundation and coastal change. The group then summarized these points and set the future goals of (1) drafting a white paper summarizing the new information (and associated gaps in knowledge) that was presented at the workshop, along with additional input from scientists who could not attend the workshop but wanted to contribute; (2) presenting the white paper and workshop information on the COS website; and (3) organizing a follow-on meeting where the conveners would help disseminate this new information and the associated gaps in knowledge to federal, state, and local governments, in addition to research institutions and nonprofit organizations, for planning future science and management efforts.


Related Web Sites
USGS Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
California State University system
Center for Ocean Solutions
Stanford University

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cover story:
Oil-Spill-Mitigation Sand Berm in the Chandeleur Islands

Ocean-Circulation and Sediment-Transport Data Offshore of Fire Island

Open House in Menlo Park, California

Workshop on Probability of Landslide-Generated Tsunamis

Key Drivers of Central California Coastal Change and Inundation Due to Climate Change

James V. Gardner, 2012 Shepard Medalist for Excellence in Marine Geology

Staff Team MarFac Completes Century Bicycle Ride

Publications July / August 2012 Publications

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