Curt Storlazzi

My interests span the coastal zone, from seacliff erosional processes to sediment dynamics in the shallow coastal ocean. My research focuses on the quantitative study of hydrodynamics, sediment transport, and geomorphology in coastal and marine environments.


2002-present  Research Geologist and Oceanographer
Coastal and Marine Geology Program, US Geological Survey

2002-present  Research Associate
Institute for Marine Sciences, University of California at Santa Cruz

2002-2004  Research Fellow
Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans Consortium

2000-2002  Post-doctoral Researcher
Institute for Marine Sciences, University of California at Santa Cruz

2000 Ph.D.  University of California at Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
Earth Sciences Department, Concentrations: Coastal Geology and Oceanograph

1996 B.Sc.  University of Delaware, Newark, DE
Geology Department, Concentrations: Geomorphology and Sedimentology

Specific topics of interest include:

  • Coral reef and rocky shoreface morphology, hydrodynamics, sediment distribution and the resulting modes of sediment transport
  • The influence of coastal hydrodynamics on nearshore rock and reef biologic communities
  • The interplay between geologic structure, climatic fluctuations and coastal processes
  • The influence of extreme storm events on the geomorphic evolution of coastlines
  • High-resolution oceanographic instrumentation and coastal mapping techniques

Current Areas of Research

  • The influence of physical processes on coral and bedrock reef habitats and ecosystems              

The inner shelf comprises important hard (coral and bedrock) and unconsolidated sedimentary (sand and mud) habitat for many species of concern and commercial interest (including fish, benthic invertebrates and marine mammals).  It is also these coastal environments that have been most impacted by infrastructure development, nutrient and contaminant delivery, and natural and human-induced sedimentation. The high geomorphic and hydrodynamic complexity both within and between coral and bedrock reefs, in conjunction with past technical restrictions, has limited our understanding of the nature of flow and the resulting flux of physical, chemical, and biologic material in these ecosystems. Understanding the physical controls on the timing and magnitude of flow and sediment, larvae, nutrient, and contaminant transport, along with their impact on seafloor geomorphology, stability, and sedimentation in these refugia are essential to assessing modern anthropogenic impacts (climate change, etc.) on these ecosystems.

This research utilizes in situ time-series instrumentation, water column profilers, GPS drifters, numerical modeling, and repetitive geophysical mapping to try to better understand the influence of meteorologic and oceanographic forcing on hydrodynamics and the resulting water column properties and seafloor geomorphology.  The goal is to clarify the connection between hydrodynamics, geologic processes, and the resulting changes in habitat and population dynamics of shallow water coral and bedrock reef biological communities.

The current study sites include Central California and the Hawaiian, Mariana, and American Samoan Islands.

For more information, please see the "Pacific Coral Reefs Web Site"

  • The influence of climate change and sea-level rise on low-latitude carbonate coasts

Observations show that sea level is rising globally and recent estimates suggest sea level will exceed 1.0 m, and may reach 2.0 m, above 2000 levels by the end of the 21st century. Sea-level rise is particularly critical for unconsolidated low-lying carbonate islands, many of which have maximum elevations of less than 4 m above present sea level. Such islands are Holocene features that support 2000-year-old cultures, yet the amount of land and water available for human habitation, water and food sources, and ecosystems is limited and extremely vulnerable to inundation from sea-level rise. Storm wave-induced overwash and inundation threatens terrestrial infrastructure and may contaminate the thin freshwater lens underlying islets with saltwater, making the islands unsuitable for agriculture and/or habitation. Rising sea levels will further exacerbate the impacts of storms and wave action on low-lying carbonate islands by reducing wave breaking (and thus energy dissipation) at the reef crest and result in greater wave energy impacting the shoreline. Understanding the physical controls on the timing and magnitude of overwash and inundation, along with their impact on coastal geomorphology are essential to assessing impacts on islands' infrastructure and ecosystems.

This research utilizes in situ time-series instrumentation, numerical modeling, and repetitive geophysical mapping to try to better understand the influence of meteorologic and oceanographic forcing on hydrodynamics and the resulting overwash and geomorphology. The goal is to clarify the connection between projected future wave and wind forcing, sea level, and the resulting oceanographic and geologic processes on low-latitude carbonate coasts.

The current study sites include Northwestern Hawaiian and Marshall Islands.

For more information, please see the project web site titled, "The Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Pacific Ocean Atolls that House Department of Defense Installations"

Recent Papers and Reports

See my Google Scholar Profile


Cheriton, O.M., Storlazzi, C.D., and Rosenberger, K.J., 2016, Observations of wave transformation over a fringing coral reef and the importance of low-frequency waves and offshore water levels to runup, overwash, and coastal flooding: Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, v. 121 no. 5, pp. 3121–3140, doi: 10.1002/2015jc011231, download PDF.

Cochran, S.A., Gibbs, A.E., D'Antonio, N.L., and Storlazzi, C.D., 2016, Benthic habitat map of U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Fagaalu Bay priority study area, Tutuila, American Samoa: Open-File Report 2016-1077, 41 p., doi: 10.3133/ofr20161077.

Erikson, L.H., Hegermiller, C.E., Barnard, P.L., and Storlazzi, C.D., 2016, Wave projections for United States mainland coasts: U.S. Geological Survey data release, doi: 10.5066/F7D798GR.

Oberle, F.K.J., Storlazzi, C.D., and Hanebuth, T.J.J., 2016, What a drag: Quantifying the global impact of chronic bottom trawling on continental shelf sediment: Journal of Marine Systems, v. 159, pp. 109–119, doi: 10.1016/j.jmarsys.2015.12.007.

Rosenberger, K.J., Storlazzi, C.D., and Cheriton, O.M., 2016, Variability of the internal tide on the southern Monterey Bay continental shelf and associated bottom boundary layer sediment transport: Continental Shelf Research, v. 120, pp. 68–81, doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2016.03.016.

Shope, J.B., Storlazzi, C.D., Erikson, L.H., and Hegermiller, C.A., 2016, Changes to extreme wave climates of islands within the Western Tropical Pacific throughout the 21st century under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5, with implications for island vulnerability and sustainability: Global and Planetary Change, v. 141, pp. 25–38, doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2016.03.009, download PDF.

Storlazzi, C.D., Dartnell, P., Hatcher, G.A., and Gibbs, A.E., 2016, End of the chain? Rugosity and fine-scale bathymetry from existing underwater digital imagery using structure-from-motion (SfM) technology: Coral Reefs, pp. 1–6, doi: 10.1007/s00338-016-1462-8, download PDF.

Swarzenski, P.W., Dulai, H., Kroeger, K.D., Smith, C.G., Dimova, N., Storlazzi, C.D., Prouty, N.G., Gingerich, S.B., and Glenn, C.R., 2016, Observations of nearshore groundwater discharge: Kahekili Beach Park submarine springs, Maui, Hawaii: Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, v. In press, doi: 10.1016/j.ejrh.2015.12.056, download PDF.

Young, M., Cavanaugh, K., Bell, T., Raimondi, P., Edwards, C.A., Drake, P.T., Erikson, L., and Storlazzi, C., 2016, Environmental controls on spatial patterns in the long-term persistence of giant kelp in central California: Ecological Monographs, v. 86 no. 1, pp. 45–60, doi: 10.1890/15-0267.1, download PDF.


George, D.A., Largier, J.L., Storlazzi, C.D., and Barnard, P.L., 2015, Classification of rocky headlands in California with relevance to littoral cell boundary delineation: Marine Geology, v. 369, pp. 137–152, doi: 10.1016/j.margeo.2015.08.010, download PDF.

Pomeroy, A.W.M., Lowe, R.J., Ghisalberti, M., Storlazzi, C.D., Cuttler, M., and Symonds, G., 2015, Mechanics of Sediment Suspension and Transport Within a Fringing Reef: The Proceedings of the Coastal Sediments 2015, doi: 10.1142/9789814689977_0086.

Quataert, E., Storlazzi, C., van Rooijen, A., Cheriton, O., and van Dongeren, A., 2015, The influence of coral reefs and climate change on wave-driven flooding of tropical coastlines: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 42, pp. 1–9, doi: 10.1002/2015gl064861, download PDF.

Reynolds, M.H., Courtot, K.N., Berkowitz, P., Storlazzi, C.D., Moore, J., and Flint, E., 2015, Will the Effects of Sea-Level Rise Create Ecological Traps for Pacific Island Seabirds? PLoS ONE, v. 10 no. 9, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136773, download PDF.

Robertson, B., Hall, K., Nistor, I., Zytner, R., and Storlazzi, C., 2015, Remote Sensing of Irregular Breaking Wave Parameters in Field Conditions: Journal of Coastal Research, v. 300, pp. 348–363, doi: 10.2112/Jcoastres-D-13-00006.1.

Sevadjian, J.C., McPhee-Shaw, E.E., Raanan, B.Y., Cheriton, O.M., Storlazzi, C.D., 2015, Vertical convergence of resuspended sediment and subducted phytoplankton to a persistent detached layer over the southern shelf of Monterey Bay, California: Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, v. 120, 22 p., doi: 10.1002/2015jc010785.

Shope, J.B., Storlazzi, C.D., Erikson, L.H., Hegermiller, C.A., 2015, Modeled Changes in Extreme Wave Climates of the Tropical Pacific Over the 21st Century: Implications for U.S. and U.S.-Affiliated Atoll Islands: The Proceedings of the Coastal Sediments 2015, doi: 10.1142/9789814689977_0247.

Storlazzi, C.D., Shope, J.B., Erikson, L.H., Hegermiller, C.A., and Barnard, P.L., 2015, Future wave and wind projections for United States and United States-affiliated Pacific Islands: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015-1001, 426 p., doi: 10.3133/ofr20151001.

Storlazzi, C.D., Elias, E.P.L., Berkowitz, P., 2015, Many Atolls May be Uninhabitable Within Decades Due to Climate Change: Scientific Reports, v. 5 no. 14546, pp. 1–9, doi: 10.1038/srep14546, download PDF.

Storlazzi, C.D., Norris, B.K., and Rosenberger, K.J., 2015, The Influence of Grain Size, Grain Color, and Suspended-Sediment Concentration on Light Attenuation: Why Fine-Grained Terrestrial Sediment Is Bad for Coral Reef Ecosystems: Coral Reefs, v. 34 no. 3, pp. 967–975, doi: 10.1007/s00338-015-1268-0.


Buscombe, D., Rubin, D.M., Lacy, J.R., Storlazzi, C.D., Hatcher, G., Chezar, H., Wyland, R., Sherwood, C.R., 2014, Autonomous bed-sediment imaging-systems for revealing temporal variability of grain size: Limnology and Oceanography: Methods, v. 12, pp. 390–406, doi: 10.4319/lom.2014.12.390.

Cheriton, O.M., McPhee-Shaw, E.E., Shaw, W.J., Stanton, T.P., Bellingham, J.G., and Storlazzi, C.D., 2014, Suspended particulate layers and internal waves over the southern Monterey Bay continental shelf—An important control on shelf mud belts? Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, v. 119 no. 1, pp. 428–444, doi: 10.1002/2013jc009360.

Cheriton, O.M., McPhee-Shaw, E.E., Storlazzi, C.D., Rosenberger, K.J., Shaw, W.J., and Raanan, B.Y., 2014, Upwelling rebound, ephemeral secondary pycnoclines, and the creation of a near-bottom wave guide over the Monterey Bay continental shelf: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 41 no. 23, pp. 8503–8511, doi: 10.1002/2014gl061897, download PDF.

Erikson, L.H., Storlazzi, C.D., and Golden, N.E., 2014, Wave Height, Peak Period, and Orbital Velocity for the California Continental Shelf: U.S. Geological Survey data release, doi: 10.5066/F7125QNQ.

Erikson, L.H., Storlazzi, C.D., and Golden, N.E., 2014, Modeling Wave and Seabed Energetics on the California Continental Shelf: U.S. Geological Survey pamphlet to accompany data release 10.5066/F7125QNQ, URL:, download PDF.

Ferrario, F., Beck, M.W., Storlazzi, C.D., Micheli, F., Shepard, C.C., Airoldi, L., 2014, The effectiveness of coral reefs for coastal hazard risk reduction and adaptation: Nature Communications, v. 5, doi: 10.1038/ncomms4794.

Hubbard, D., Gischler, E., Davies, P., Montaggioni, L., Camoin, G., Dullo, W.-C., Storlazzi, C., Field, M., Fletcher, C., Grossman, E., Sheppard, C., Lescinsky, H., Fenner, D., McManus, J., Scheffers, S., 2014, Island outlook: Warm and swampy: Science, v. 345 no. 6203, pp. 1461–1461, doi: 10.1126/science.345.6203.1461-a, download PDF.

Jokiel, P.L., Rodgers, K.S., Storlazzi, C.D., Field, M.E., Lager, C.V., Lager, D., 2014, Response of reef corals on a fringing reef flat to elevated suspended-sediment concentrations: Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi: PeerJ, v. 2, doi: 10.7717/peerj.699.

Oberle, F.K.J., Storlazzi, C.D., and Hanebuth, T.J.J., 2014, Wave-driven sediment mobilization on a storm-controlled continental shelf (Northwest Iberia): Journal of Marine Systems, v. 139, pp. 362–372, doi: 10.1016/j.jmarsys.2014.07.018.

Prouty, N.G., Storlazzi, C.D., McCutcheon, A.L., and Jenson, J.W., 2014, Historic impact of watershed change and sedimentation to reefs along west-central Guam: Coral Reefs, v. 33 no. 3, pp. 733–749, doi: 10.1007/s00338-014-1166-x.

Storlazzi, C.D., Cheriton, O.M., Lescinski, J.M.R., and Logan, J.B., 2014, Coastal circulation and water-column properties in the War in the Pacific National Historical Park, Guam—Measurements and modeling of waves, currents, temperature, salinity, and turbidity, April–August 2012: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2014–1130, 104 p., doi: 10.3133/ofr20141130.

Storlazzi, C.D., Berkowitz, P., and Elias, E.P., 2014, The effects of sea-level rise on waves, run-up, and inundation on atolls [abs.]: Ocean Sciences Meeting, Honolulu, HI, February 23-28 URL:

Torresan, L.Z., and Storlazzi, Curt D., 2014, The Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Department of Defense Installations on Atolls in the Pacific Ocean,: U. S. Geological Survey Web Page, doi: 10.5066/F7QR4V4C.


Conaway, C.H., Draut, A.E., Echols, K.R., Storlazzi, C.D., Ritchie, A., 2013, Episodic Suspended Sediment Transport And Elevated Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Concentrations In A Small, Mountainous River In Coastal California: Ssc And Pah In The San Lorenzo River: River Research and Applications, v. 29 no. 7, pp. 919–932, doi: 10.1002/rra.2582.

Conaway, C.H., Storlazzi, C.D., Draut, A.E., and Swarzenski, P.W., 2013, Short-term variability of 7Be atmospheric deposition and watershed response in a Pacific coastal stream, Monterey Bay, California, USA: Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, v. 120, pp. 94–103, doi: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2013.02.004.

Davis, A.C.D., Kvitek, R.G., Mueller, C.B.A., Young, M.A., Storlazzi, C.D., and Phillips, E.L., 2013, Distribution and abundance of rippled scour depressions along the California coast: Continental Shelf Research, v. 69, pp. 88–100, doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2013.09.010.

DeMartini, E., Jokiel, P., Beets, J., Stender, Y., Storlazzi, C., Minton, D., Conklin, E., 2013, Terrigenous sediment impact on coral recruitment and growth affects the use of coral habitat by recruit parrotfishes (F. Scaridae): Journal of Coastal Conservation, v. 17 no. 3, pp. 417–429, doi: 10.1007/s11852-013-0247-2.

Grady, A.E., Moore, L.J., Storlazzi, C.D., Elias, E., and Reidenbach, M.A., 2013, The influence of sea level rise and changes in fringing reef morphology on gradients in alongshore sediment transport: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 40 no. 12, pp. 3096–3101, doi: 10.1002/grl.50577.

Hoeke, R.K., Storlazzi, C.D., Ridd, P.V., 2013, Drivers of circulation in a fringing coral reef embayment: A wave-flow coupled numerical modeling study of Hanalei Bay, Hawaii: Continental Shelf Research, v. 58, pp. 79–95, doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2013.03.007.

Prouty, N.G., Goodkin, N.F., Jones, R., Lamborg, C.H., Storlazzi, C.D., Hughen, K.A., 2013, Environmental assessment of metal exposure to corals living in Castle Harbour, Bermuda: Marine Chemistry, v. 154, pp. 55–66, doi: 10.1016/j.marchem.2013.05.002.

Rogers, J.S., Monismith, S.G., Feddersen, F., Storlazzi, C.D., 2013, Hydrodynamics of spur and groove formations on a coral reef: Hydrodynamics of Reef Spur and Grooves: Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, v. 118 no. 6, pp. 3059–3073, doi: 10.1002/jgrc.20225.

Storlazzi, C.D., Berkowitz, P., Reynolds, M.H., and Logan, J.B., 2013, Forecasting the impact of storm waves and sea-level rise on Midway Atoll and Laysan Island within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument—A comparison of passive versus dynamic inundation models: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013–1069, 78 p., URL:

Storlazzi, C.D., Field, M.E., Cheriton, O.M., Presto, M.K., and Logan, J.B., 2013, Rapid fluctuations in flow and water-column properties in Asan Bay, Guam—Implications for selective resilience of coral reefs in warming seas: Coral Reefs, v. 32, 949–961 p., doi: 10.1007/s00338-013-1061-x.

Storlazzi, C.D., Field, M.E., Presto, M.K., Swarzenski, P.W., Logan, J.B., Reiss, T.E., Elfers, T.C., Cochran, S.A., Torresan, M.E., and Chezar, H., 2013, Coastal circulation and sediment dynamics in Pelekane and Kawaihae Bays, Hawaii—measurements of waves, current, temperature, salinity, turbidity, and geochronology: November 2010-March 2011: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2012-1264, 102 p., URL:

Storlazzi, C.D., Fregoso, T.A., Figurski, J.D., Freiwald, J., Lonhart, S.I., Finlayson, D.P., 2013, Burial and exhumation of temperate bedrock reefs as elucidated by repetitive high-resolution sea floor sonar surveys: Spatial patterns and impacts to species' richness and diversity: Continental Shelf Research, v. 55, pp. 40–51, doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2013.01.013.

Storlazzi, C.D., Golden, N.E., and Gibbons, H., 2013, Seafloor off Lighthouse Point Park, Santa Cruz, California: General Information Product 153, doi: 10.3133/gip153.

Storlazzi, C.D., Golden, N.E., and Gibbons, H., 2013, Seafloor off Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz, California: General Information Product 154, doi: 10.3133/gip154.

Storlazzi, C.D., Golden, N.E., and Gibbons, H., 2013, Seafloor off Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz County, California: General Information Product 152, doi: 10.3133/gip152.

Swarzenski, P.W., Dulaiova, H., Dailer, M.L., Glenn, C.R., Smith, C.G., and Storlazzi, C.D., 2013, A Geochemical and Geophysical Assessment of Coastal Groundwater Discharge at Select Sites in Maui and Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi, in, Wetzelhuetter, C. (Ed.). Groundwater in the Coastal Zones of Asia-Pacific v. 7 (Coastal Research Library): Springer Netherlands, pp. 27–46, doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-5648-9_3.

Warrick, J.A., and Storlazzi, C.D., 2013, Fine-grained sediment dispersal along the California coast: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2013-3023, 4 p., URL: