Visualizing sea-level rise in Santa Monica, California

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People stand on a pier near large viewers that look off the pier, one lady is looking through the viewer.

Visitors on Santa Monica Pier look through “Owls,” virtual-reality viewers that show how the beach beside the pier will look when future storms and sea-level rise raise water levels. Photo courtesy of USC Sea Grant.

Visitors to the Santa Monica Pier in southern California can now see what the beach might look like when future storms and sea-level rise raise water levels. Two virtual-reality viewers, named “Owls” for their distinctive appearance, show the projected extent of flooding by a big storm at high tide, by sea-level rise, and by both together. The projections come from the USGS Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS). The viewers also show how communities can adapt to sea-level rise through nature-based coastal-planning projects, such as enhanced dunes. The City of Santa Monica developed the Owls (one ADA-accessible) in partnership with the USGS, Owlized, and the USC Sea Grant program. The Owls will operate from November 7, 2016, to January 7, 2017; a public celebration was held November 16 to coincide with “King” high tides.

View more photographs on our Facebook page (USGS Coastal and Ocean Science).

Visit the interactive virtual Owl viewer!

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Date published: October 17, 2019
Status: Active

Coastal 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...