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Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

Coastal Processes

California Coastal Processes Studies

California's beaches and nearshore regions are valuable economic and recreational resources that also provide habitats for numerous sensitive species. During winter storms, the coast represents a potentially dangerous interface between ocean and land, nature and humans. Storms produce high waves, strong currents, and elevated sea level that can rapidly erode beaches and inundate low-lying coastal regions, damaging and/or destroying public and private infrastructure as well as stressing coastal ecosystems. Over longer-time scales (e.g. decadal), persistent erosion exacerbated by the pressures of coastal development, reduction in sediment availability and climate change, can result in severely depleted beaches. The USGS performs research along the California coast to understand the physical processes that control coastal change on time scales from individual storms to decades. These efforts help local, state, and government agencies make informed coastal management decisions that will most effectively preserve and protect this valuable resource.

Our Coast Our FutureOur Coast, Our Future

Our Coast, Our Future (OCOF) is a collaborative, user-driven project focused on providing San Francisco Bay Area coastal resource and land use managers and planners locally relevant, online maps and tools to help understand, visualize, and anticipate vulnerabilities to sea level rise and storms within the bay and on the outer coast from Half Moon Bay to Bodega Bay.


cosmos thumbnailCoastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS)

The Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS) makes detailed predictions of storm-induced coastal flooding, erosion, and cliff failures over large geographic scales. CoSMoS was developed for hindcast studies, operational applications and future climate scenarios to provide emergency responders and coastal planners with critical storm-hazards information that can be used to increase public safety, mitigate physical damages, and more effectively manage and allocate resources within complex coastal settings.

CoSMoS is set up within the San Francisco Bay as an extension of Our Coast, Our Future (OCOF) work and is scheduled for release in summer of 2014. San Francisco Bay is geographically and bathymetrically complex, necessitating many alterations to the methods used on Northern California’s outer coast.

San Francisco Bay Coastal SystemSan Francisco Bay Coastal System

The objective of this project is to identify the physical processes and anthropogenic influences that have resulted in significant morphological changes to the San Francisco Bay Coastal System at a range of spatial and temporal scales. This, in turn, will aid in the assessment of the future impact of sea level rise, climate change, and sediment management practices on the beaches, tidal wetlands, and submarine resources. The project's development reflects the importance of an integrated, system-wide approach toward understanding sediment transport pathways from the delta mouth to the shelf.

Illustration shows a depiction of the five domain decomposition grids employed in the model.San Francisco Bay Basic Tide Model

This web page provides a link to files that may be used to run a basic depth-averaged (2DH) Deltares Delft3D version 4.00.01 astronomic tide model for San Francisco Bay. It was developed with the primary aim of assessing water level fluctuations and flow conditions in the vicinity of the Golden Gate (Elias and Hansen 2013). The FLOW model consists of six 2-way coupled curvilinear domains; grid resolution varies and is finest in the vicinity of the Golden Gate where it is approximately 50m by 50m. Tides are simulated with amplitudes and phases of 12 locally dominant tidal constituents (M2, S2, N2, K2, K1, O1, P1, Q1, MF, MM, M4, MS4, and MN4) along the open ocean boundary. These files are provided ‘as is’ with the aim of promoting scientific advancement in the understanding of San Francisco Bay processes.

Sand and Mud Home Page.San Francisco Bay Sand and Mud

The web site highlights the special published volume, from the journal Marine Geology, entitled, “A multi-discipline approach for understanding sediment transport and geomorphic evolution in an estuarine-coastal system: San Francisco Bay.”

The site also provides links to videos, public lectures, newsletter articles, and more information on the sand and mud of San Francisco Bay.

Study AreaSanta Barbara Littoral Cell Coastal Processes Study

The objective of this study was to identify and quantify the pathways for nearshore sediment transport in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, with emphasis on critical regions of shoreline erosion. To achieve this objective, PCMSC evaluated the coastal change patterns and processes along the Santa Barbara littoral cell coast.


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Last Modified 2018