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Sea-level rise and coastal groundwater inundation and shoaling at select sites in California, USA

September 20, 2016

Study region

The study region spans coastal California, USA, and focuses on three primary sites: Arcata, Stinson Beach, and Malibu Lagoon.

Study focus

1 m and 2 m sea-level rise (SLR) projections were used to assess vulnerability to SLR-driven groundwater emergence and shoaling at select low-lying, coastal sites in California. Separate and combined inundation scenarios for SLR and groundwater emergence were developed using digital elevation models of study site topography and groundwater surfaces constructed from well data or published groundwater level contours.

New hydrological insights for the region

SLR impacts are a serious concern in coastal California which has a long (∼1800 km) and populous coastline. Information on the possible importance of SLR-driven groundwater inundation in California is limited. In this study, the potential for SLR-driven groundwater inundation at three sites (Arcata, Stinson Beach, and Malibu Lagoon) was investigated under 1 m and 2 m SLR scenarios. These sites provide insight into the vulnerability of Northern California coastal plains, coastal developments built on beach sand or sand spits, and developed areas around coastal lagoons associated with seasonal streams and berms. Northern California coastal plains with abundant shallow groundwater likely will see significant and widespread groundwater emergence, while impacts along the much drier central and southern California coast may be less severe due to the absence of shallow groundwater in many areas. Vulnerability analysis is hampered by the lack of data on shallow coastal aquifers, which commonly are not studied because they are not suitable for domestic or agricultural use. Shallow saline aquifers may be present in many areas along coastal California, which would dramatically increase vulnerability to SLR-driven groundwater emergence and shoaling. Improved understanding of the extent and response of California coastal aquifers to SLR will help in preparing for mitigation and adaptation.

Publication Year 2017
Title Sea-level rise and coastal groundwater inundation and shoaling at select sites in California, USA
DOI 10.1016/j.ejrh.2015.12.055
Authors Daniel J. Hoover, Kingsley Odigie, Peter W. Swarzenski, Patrick L. Barnard
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies
Index ID 70176524
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center