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The National Assessment of Shoreline Change: A GIS compilation of vector shorelines and associated shoreline change data for the sandy shorelines of the California coast

October 30, 2006


The Coastal and Marine Geology Program of the U.S. Geological Survey has generated a comprehensive data clearinghouse of digital vector shorelines and shoreline change rates for the sandy shoreline along the California open coast. These data, which are presented herein, were compiled as part of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Assessment of Shoreline Change Project.

Beach erosion is a chronic problem along many open-ocean shores of the United States. As coastal populations continue to grow and community infrastructures are threatened by erosion, there is increased demand for accurate information including rates and trends of shoreline migration. There is also a critical need for shoreline change data that is consistent from one coastal region to another. One purpose of this work is to develop standard, repeatable methods for mapping and analyzing shoreline movement so that periodic, systematic, and internally consistent updates of shorelines and shoreline change rates can be made at a National Scale.

This data compilation for open-ocean, sandy shorelines of the California coast is one in a series that already includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Southeast Atlantic Coast (Morton et al., 2004; Morton et al., 2005) and will eventually cover Washington, Oregon, and parts of Hawaii and Alaska. Short- and long-term shoreline change evaluations are determined by comparing the positions of three historical shorelines digitized from maps, with a modern shoreline derived from LIDAR (light detection and ranging) topographic surveys. Historical shorelines generally represent the following time-periods: 1850s-1880s, 1920s-1930s, and late 1940s-1970s. The most recent shoreline is from data collected between 1997 and 2002. Long-term rates of change are calculated by linear regression using all four shorelines. Short-term rates of change are end-point rate calculations using the two most recent shorelines. Please refer to our full report on shoreline change of the California coastline at for additional information regarding methods and results (Hapke et al., 2006).

Data in this report are organized into downloadable layers by region (Northern, Central and Southern California) and are provided as vector datasets with metadata. Vector shorelines may represent a compilation of data from one or more sources and these sources are included in the dataset metadata. This project employs the Environmental Systems Research Institute's (ESRI) ArcGIS as it's GIS mapping tool and contains several data layers (shapefiles) that are used to create a geographic view of the California Coast. These vector data form a basemap comprised of polygon and line themes that include a U.S. coastline (1:80,000), U.S. cities, and state boundaries.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2006
Title The National Assessment of Shoreline Change: A GIS compilation of vector shorelines and associated shoreline change data for the sandy shorelines of the California coast
DOI 10.3133/ofr20061251
Authors Cheryl J. Hapke, David Reid
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2006-1251
Index ID ofr20061251
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Coastal and Marine Geology