Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center
PCMSC Coastal Processes Studies
California's beaches and nearshore regions are valuable economic and recreational resources but 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 to support the efforts of local, state and government agencies to make informed coastal management decisions to most effectively preserve and protect this valuable resource.