Eyes on the Coast—Using video imagery to study coastal change

Science Center Objects

Two video cameras atop the Dream Inn hotel in Santa Cruz, California, overlook the coast in northern Monterey Bay. Camera 1 looks eastward over Santa Cruz Main Beach and boardwalk, while Camera 2 looks southward over Cowells Beach. The cameras are part of the Remote Sensing Coastal Change project.

Two adjacent poles holding video cameras near top, one control box near bottom, one man holding small tool near control box.

USGS ocean engineer Gerry Hatcher (left) and USGS postdoctoral oceanographer Shawn Harrison make adjustments to a computer controlling two video cameras on the roof of the Dream Inn, a 10-story hotel overlooking Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz, California.

Every half hour between 7:30am and 4:30pm, both cameras shoot video for 10 minutes. Today’s most recent images are shown below. Top: Snapshots (first frame in the 10-minute sequence). Bottom: Time-averaged images (combination of 1,200 frames taken every half-second). Please note that it takes 10 minutes for the images to be posted, once they are collected by the camera.

These and other images are used to remotely sense a range of processes, including:

  • shoreline position,
  • sandbar migration,
  • rip-channel formation,
  • wave run-up on the beach,
  • alongshore current, and
  • nearshore bathymetry.

Eventually, USGS will install similar systems in more remote locations. The knowledge gained will improve simulations of shoreline change that communities can use to plan for sea-level rise, changing storm patterns, and other threats to beaches. Read more about the USGS study on the Remote Sensing Coastal Change project website.