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Preparing for the Impacts of Sea-Level Rise and Extreme Storm Events Along the San Francisco Bay Area’s Outer Coast

Current scientific literature and statistical trends suggest that coastal storms with the
damaging combination of large waves and higher water levels will be more frequent in the
future, resulting in greater risk of coastal inundation, flooding, erosion and cliff failures
along the coast of California. To prepare adequate and timely adaptation and response
strategies for these impacts, land and resource managers along the San Francisco Bay
Area’s coast (in the four counties: Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo) need to
understand how these future changes will affect the landscape, ecological systems and
human infrastructure.

A new partnership of nine organizations, the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change
Consortium, recently formed to assess climate change impacts and strengthen collaborative
science-based adaptive management among resource management agencies, decision
makers and other key stakeholders in the San Francisco Bay Area region. Building on their
state-of-the art approach to determine the impact of severe winter storms in Southern
California (Barnard et al., 2009), U.S. Geological Survey (PI Barnard) will apply this process
based modeling suite, which will utilize a high resolution (2 m horizontal resolution) digital
elevation model (DEM), to assess coastal vulnerability to sea level rise and climate change
along the San Francisco Bay Area outer coastline (Pt. San Pedro to Pt. Reyes). PRBO
Conservation Science (Co-PI Ballard) will integrate and synthesize the predicted coastal
impacts with the results from similar efforts for the inner bay shoreline of SF Bay affecting
many of the same land and resource managers. PRBO will develop a web-based decision
support tool providing information to the managers as defined by a stakeholder
participation process, which will be managed by NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National
Marine Sanctuary (Project Manager Higgason). As a result of this project, these local, state
and federal land and resource managers along the coast of the San Francisco Bay Area will
have the information they need to develop adaptation and response strategies for
anticipated coastal inundation, flooding, erosion and cliff failures resulting from climate

Barnard, P.L., O’Reilly, B., van Ormondt, M., Elias, E., Ruggiero, P., Erikson, L.H., Hapke, C., Collins, B.D., Guza, R.T., Adams, P.N. and Thomas, J.T., 2009. The framework of a coastal hazards model: a tool for predicting the impact of severe storms. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1073, 21 pp.

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