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70% of California beaches could reportedly vanish by the century’s end

Geological researchers believe California’s beaches could diminish by up to 70% by the year 2100. Satellite data collected over two decades is now being peer reviewed.

The Golden State may lose some of its glorious sheen, thanks to the impacts of climate change.

Globally famed for its sprawling beaches and ceaseless waves, California could reportedly face the grim prospect of waving goodbye to 70% of its coastline by the year 2100.

Satellite data collected over two decades has been cross-referenced with geological models of the climate to predict what the region’s 1,100 mile perimeter may look like in the not-so-distant future.

The paper – which is currently being peer reviewed for publication – suggests that sea level data consistent with a rise between 1.6ft and 10ft will leave between 25% and 70% of beaches susceptible to being washed away before the end of the century.

Within this calculated bracket, researchers have deduced that the total loss of land will directly reflect how much carbon is released into the atmosphere from this point in time.

‘Beaches are perhaps the most iconic feature of California, and the potential for losing this identity is real,’ writes Sean Vitousek, lead researcher of the US Geological Survey.

Delving into the team’s findings, he highlighted several areas with a high probability of diminishing, including Point Arena and Humboldt Bay in the north, Pismo Beach and Morro Bay in central California, and Newport Beach and San Clemente in the south.

The level of damage incurred by a 3ft sea level rise would see Inland communities in places like San Diego lose a major portion of their picnic areas, lifeguard towers, and coastal access sites. For those closer to the action, the worst-case scenario would lead to forced evacuations.

‘Losing the protecting swath of beach sand between us and the pounding surf exposes critical infrastructure, businesses, and homes to damage, Vitousek says. ‘Beaches are natural resources, and it is likely that human-management efforts must increase in order to preserve them’.

On a positive note, the California Coastal Commission had already been encouraging cities to harden their coastlines by building seawalls and strategically placing large rocks to stem the impact of larger waves. This new data should, if ratified, streamline such efforts to maximise their effectiveness.

While prevention projects are ongoing, there is some scepticism as to the severity of the threat. A lack of consensus around the reliability of beach morphology models, paired with a limited dataset to draw from leads many to believe further research is required before resources and funds are mobilised.

The fact that this represents the very first instance that ‘satellite-derived shorelines have been used for this type of analysis,’ appears to be something of a double edged sword.

A first glance at the data is hugely sobering and suggests we need to spring into action now, but the distinct lack of third-party verification means the study will ultimately be taken with a pinch of salt, pardon the pun.