Coastal Systems in Southern California Close to Tipping Points

Aug. 17, 2021
Photo of the coastline near Santa Barbara, California.

Steve Lee

Beaches and wetlands near Santa Barbara, California will reach tipping points by 2050, where hazard exposure (e.g., from sea level rise and storms) will substantially increase and threaten the viability of these ecosystems, according to recently published SW CASC-funded research. The authors analyzed models of various climate change-related variables, such as ocean water levels and beach and cliff evolution, to identify potential tipping points in coastal systems near Santa Barbara. Tipping points for built communities will take longer to reach (~2100 or later) given their location and ability to adapt. However, the loss of these natural ecosystems could result in indirect socioeconomic impacts by negatively impacting quality of life and disrupting the local economy.