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A Seamless, High-Resolution, Coastal Digital Elevation Model (DEM) for Southern California

February 17, 2010

A seamless, 3-meter digital elevation model (DEM) was constructed for the entire Southern California coastal zone, extending 473 km from Point Conception to the Mexican border. The goal was to integrate the most recent, high-resolution datasets available (for example, Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) topography, multibeam and single beam sonar bathymetry, and Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (IfSAR) topography) into a continuous surface from at least the 20-m isobath to the 20-m elevation contour.

This dataset was produced to provide critical boundary conditions (bathymetry and topography) for a modeling effort designed to predict the impacts of severe winter storms on the Southern California coast (Barnard and others, 2009). The hazards model, run in real-time or with prescribed scenarios, incorporates atmospheric information (wind and pressure fields) with a suite of state-of-the-art physical process models (tide, surge, and wave) to enable detailed prediction of water levels, run-up, wave heights, and currents. Research-grade predictions of coastal flooding, inundation, erosion, and cliff failure are also included. The DEM was constructed to define the general shape of nearshore, beach and cliff surfaces as accurately as possible, with less emphasis on the detailed variations in elevation inland of the coast and on bathymetry inside harbors. As a result this DEM should not be used for navigation purposes.