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The USGS has collected and released topographic data that show the erosional effects of the January 2023 storms on the coast for the Santa Cruz region of California.

This story is part of the December 2022-February 2023 issue of the Sound Waves Newsletter.

These data were developed from photographs collected in partnership with Ecoscan Resource Data during the afternoon of January 5th, 2023. Photos have been processed with a digital technique called structure-from-motion photogrammetry to make accurate orthomosaics of the coastal landscape. Comparing the data with pre-storm conditions mapped in September 2022 provide “before” and “after” perspectives of the effects of the January storms. These data have been released under USGS Emergency Use Data authorities for data that have immediate or time-sensitive relevance to public health and safety.

Animated GIF shows elevation change photogrammetry data from Santa Cruz, CA
Animated GIF demonstrating use of the data viewer, showing elevation change photogrammetry data from Santa Cruz, CA.

3-Dimensional Data Viewer

Post-Storm Topography Data

Post-Storm Topographic Change Data

All Data Together

To explore the data, using a computer mouse is recommended.

• Tools: Pan (left mouse button), Zoom (mouse wheel or right mouse button), Spin orientation (press mouse wheel).

• For topography data, you can explore the data as elevation values or with the real-world colors captured by our cameras. To toggle between these, click on the Palette icon to open the “Colors” window and select either “elevation” or “RGB”.

• For topographic change data, ensure that “RGB” is selected in the “Colors” window, which is accessed from the Palette icon.

• The data can be presented along with other map and elevation products. These can be toggled by clicking the Globe icon and selecting from the different “Terrain” models and “Imagery” datasets, some of which have labels such as street names.


The images below show views of the Santa Cruz, California coast before (Sept. 13, 2022) and after (Jan. 5, 2023) the powerful storms of early January 2023. Images show views of the 3-dimensional landscape data derived by USGS photogrammetry techniques.
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