Research ArticleGEOLOGY

Tracking California’s sinking coast from space: Implications for relative sea-level rise

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Science Advances  31 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 31, eaba4551
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba4551


Coastal vertical land motion affects projections of sea-level rise, and subsidence exacerbates flooding hazards. Along the ~1350-km California coastline, records of high-resolution vertical land motion rates are scarce due to sparse instrumentation, and hazards to coastal communities are underestimated. Here, we considered a ~100-km-wide swath of land along California’s coast and performed a multitemporal interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) analysis of large datasets, obtaining estimates of vertical land motion rates for California’s entire coast at ~100-m dimensions—a ~1000-fold resolution improvement to the previous record. We estimate between 4.3 million and 8.7 million people in California’s coastal communities, including 460,000 to 805,000 in San Francisco, 8000 to 2,300,00 in Los Angeles, and 2,000,000 to 2,300,000 in San Diego, are exposed to subsidence. The unprecedented detail and submillimeter accuracy resolved in our vertical land motion dataset can transform the analysis of natural and anthropogenic changes in relative sea-level and associated hazards.

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