Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Map Showing Seacliff Response to Climatic and Seismic Events, Seacliff State Beach, Santa Cruz County, California

September 1, 2002


The coastal cliffs along much of the central California coast are actively retreating. Large storms and periodic earthquakes are responsible for most of the documented seacliff slope failures. Long-term average erosion rates calculated for this section of coast (Moore and others, 1999) do not provide the spatial or temporal data resolution necessary to identify the processes responsible for retreat of the seacliffs, where episodic retreat threatens homes and community infrastructure. Research suggests that more erosion occurs along the California coast over a short time scale, during periods of severe storms or seismic activity, than occurs during decades of normal weather or seismic quiescence (Griggs and Scholar, 1998; Griggs, 1994; Plant and Griggs, 1990; Griggs and Johnson, 1979 and 1983; Kuhn and Shepard, 1979).

This is the second map in a series of maps documenting the processes of short-term seacliff retreat through the identification of slope failure styles, spatial variability of failures, and temporal variation in retreat amounts in an area that has been identified as an erosion hotspot (Moore and others, 1999; Griggs and Savoy, 1985). This map presents seacliff failure and retreat data from Seacliff State Beach, California, which is located seven kilometers east of Santa Cruz (fig. 1) along the northern Monterey Bay coast. The data presented in this map series provide high-resolution spatial and temporal information on the location, amount, and processes of seacliff retreat in Santa Cruz, California. These data show the response of the seacliffs to both large magnitude earthquakes and severe climatic events such as El Ni?os; this information may prove useful in predicting the future response of the cliffs to events of similar magnitude. The map data can also be incorporated into Global Information System (GIS) for use by researchers and community planners.

Four sets of vertical aerial photographs (Oct. 18, 1989; Jan. 27, 1998; Feb. 9, 1998; and March 6, 1998) were orthorectified and digital terrain models (DTMs) were generated and edited for this study (see Hapke and Richmond, 2000, for description of techniques). The earliest set of photography is from 1989, taken immediately following the Loma Prieta earthquake. These photographs are used to document the response of the seacliffs to seismic shaking, as well as to establish a baseline cliff-edge position to measure the amount of retreat of the cliff edge over the following decade. The remaining three sets of photographs were collected using the U.S. Geological Survey Coastal Aerial Mapping System (CAMS) during the 1997-98 El Ni?o (see Hapke and Richmond, 1999; 2000). The CAMS photographs were taken before, during, and after severe storms and are used to examine seacliff response to these storms. In addition to the analyses of photogrammetrically processed data, field mapping identified joints, faults, and lithologic variations along this section of seacliff.

Publication Year 2002
Title Map Showing Seacliff Response to Climatic and Seismic Events, Seacliff State Beach, Santa Cruz County, California
DOI 10.3133/mf2399
Authors Cheryl J. Hapke, Bruce M. Richmond, Mimi M. D'Iorio
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Miscellaneous Field Studies Map
Series Number 2399
Index ID mf2399
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Coastal and Marine Geology