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Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

Eyes on the Coast—Using video imagery to study coastal change

Two video cameras atop the Dream Inn hotel in Santa Cruz, California, overlook the coast in northern Monterey Bay. Camera 1 (left) looks eastward over Santa Cruz Main Beach and boardwalk, while camera 2 looks southward over Cowells Beach. The cameras are part of the Remote Sensing Coastal Change project.

Every half hour between 6:00am and 8:00pm, both cameras shoot video for 10 minutes. Today’s most recent images are shown below. Top: Snapshots (first frame in the 10-minute sequence). Bottom: Time-averaged images (combination of 1,200 frames taken every half-second). Please note that it takes 10 minutes for the images to be posted, once they are collected by the camera.

Another high-resolution digital video camera is installed atop a waterfront hotel at Madeira Beach, Florida, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico coast.

These and other images are used to remotely sense a range of processes, including:

Camera 1, Main Beach Snapshot

Most recent snapshot from camera one, which looks eastward over Main Beach.

Camera 2, Cowells Beach Snapshot

Most recent snapshot from camera two, which looks southward over Cowells Beach.

Please note: If old photos are displayed, cameras may be temporarily offline.

Camera 1, Main Beach Time-Averaged Image

Most recent time-averaged image of Main Beach.

Camera 2, Cowells Beach Time-Averaged Image

Most recent time-averaged image of Cowells Beach.

Eventually, USGS will install similar systems in more remote locations. The knowledge gained will improve simulations of shoreline change that communities can use to plan for sea-level rise, changing storm patterns, and other threats to beaches. Read more about the USGS study on the Remote Sensing Coastal Change project website.

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information. For more information, please contact Shawn Harrison (

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