Scripps leads research on cliff erosion

A newly funded program to accelerate the science behind coastal bluff failures was signed into law earlier this month.

The bill, AB 66, will fund enhanced coastal monitoring to better understand the timing of bluff failures and help inform recommendations towards the development of a potential early landslide warning system.

The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath, who secured $2.5 million for this three-year study through the state budget.

Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego will lead the research on cliff erosion.

Scripps Oceanography coastal geomorphologist, Adam Young, has been surveying the cliffs in San Diego County for several years using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), a system that scans the cliffs with a laser creating very high resolution three-dimensional spatial maps of the coast. 

“Each LiDAR survey provides a snapshot in time that we compare to previous surveys, to measure and track erosion over time,” said Young.

“We use these surveys combined with other sensors to quantify the erosion processes, identify erosion patterns, and examine stability conditions.”

With funding from this bill, Young and Scripps Oceanography geophysicist, Mark Zumberge, will aim to gain a better understanding of the processes that lead up to cliff failures.

A central goal is to discover if any signature exists that could foretell heightened risk in specific locations.

Photo: Scripps Institution of Oceanography