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California Beaches Likely to Disappear by 2100 Due to Sea Level Rise

Mar 31, 2017 11:03 AM EDT
California beach
California's main draw are their spectacular beaches, but new research says it could all be gone due to erosion by the next century.
(Photo : David McNew/Getty Images)

California is most known for its stunning beaches with perfect waves crashing on an endless strip of winding coastline. Well, enjoy it while you can, because scientists say that in less than a hundred years, most of it could be gone.

According to a report from USGS, roughly 31 to 67 percent of the iconic Southern California beaches could completely erode by 2100. This scenario comes with data from new computer model CoSMoS-COAST (Coastal Storm Modeling System - Coastal One-line Assimilated Simulation Tool), assuming limited human intervention and a sea-level rise of one to two meters happen.

With the system, the researchers were able to observe sand transport in the 310-mile coastline including variables like waves and predicted sea-level rise, according to Gizmodo. The CoSMoS-COAST also analyzed historical shoreline positions, taking note of how beaches react and adapt to waves and weather conditions.

"Beaches are perhaps the most iconic feature of California, and the potential for losing this identity is real," lead author Sean Vitousek said in the USGS report. "The effect of California losing its beaches is not just a matter of affecting the tourism economy. Losing the protecting swath of beach sand between us and the pounding surf exposes critical infrastructure, businesses and homes to damage."

The study showed that while 72 percent of Southern California beaches are growing larger via artificial beach nourishments, future predictions point to almost all of it eventually experiencing erosion because of the inevitable increase in sea level.

Co-author Patrick Barnard agreed with Vitousek, adding that these beaches are the "first line of defense against coastal storm impacts" that millions of residents in the region remain vulnerable to.

"This study indicates that we will have to perform massive and costly interventions to preserve these beaches in the future under the erosive pressures of anticipated sea level rise, or risk losing many of the economic and protective benefits beaches provide," Barnard concluded.

The study is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

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