The impacts of climate change and sea-level rise around the Pacific and Arctic Oceans can vary tremendously. Thus far the vast majority of national and international impact assessments and models of coastal climate change have focused on low-relief coastlines that are not near seismically active zones. Furthermore, the degree to which extreme waves and wind will add further stress to coastal systems has also been largely disregarded. By working to refine this area of research, USGS aims to help coastal managers and inhabitants understand how their coasts will change.
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The Arctic region is warming faster than anywhere else in the nation. Understanding the rates and causes of coastal change in Alaska is needed to identify and mitigate hazards that might affect people and animals that call Alaska home.
Sea level is rising faster than projected in the western Pacific, so understanding how wave-driven coastal flooding will affect inhabited, low-lying islands—most notably, the familiar ring-shaped atolls—as well as the low-elevation areas of high islands in the Pacific Ocean, is critical for decision-makers in protecting infrastructure or relocating resources and people.
The west coast of the United States is extremely complex and changeable because of tectonic activity, mountain building, and land subsidence. These active environments pose a major challenge for accurately assessing climate change impacts, since models were historically developed for more passive sandy coasts.
Essential habitat for wild salmon and other wildlife borders river deltas and estuaries in the Pacific Northwest. These estuaries also support industry, agriculture, and a large human population that’s expected to double by the year 2060, but each could suffer from more severe river floods, higher sea level, and storm surges caused by climate change.
For a beach town like Santa Cruz, preserving beaches by mitigating coastal erosion is vital. Surveys conducted now and regularly in the future will help scientists understand the short- and long-term impacts of climate change, El Niño years, and sea-level rise on a populated and vulnerable coastline.
USGS scientist quoted in story on coastal erosion
Patrick Barnard was interviewed by the Half Moon Bay Review for a story about coastal erosion titled, “The Crumbling Coastside.” Learn more.
Many Atolls May Be Uninhabitable Within Decades Due to Climate Change
Combined effects of storm-induced wave-driven flooding and sea-level rise may be more severe and happen sooner than previously estimated. Learn more.
Changes to extreme wave climates of islands within the Western Tropical Pacific throughout the 21st century under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5, with implications for island vulnerability and sustainability - Global and Planetary Change 141, June 2016
Many Atolls May Be Uninhabitable Within Decades Due to Climate Change - Nature Scientific Reports 5:14546, September 2015
Coastal vulnerability across the Pacific dominated by El Niño/ Southern Oscillation - Nature Geoscience, September 2015
National assessment of shoreline change—Historical shoreline change along the north coast of Alaska, U.S.–Canadian border to Icy Cape - USGS Open-File Report 2015–1048
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