sea level rise

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Shifting Sands: San Francisco Begins Huge Erosion-Control Project

Ocean Beach has too much sand on one end, too little on the other

Molly Samuel/KQED

Trucks are moving sand from the north end of Ocean Beach to the south end.

Portions of San Francisco’s historic Great Highway are closed for a massive sand-moving project, part of an effort to slow erosion along the stretch of Pacific coastline known as Ocean Beach. By the end of the project, trucks will have moved about 100,000 cubic yards of sand.

“It’s the equivalent of 31 Olympic-sized swimming pools,” said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. “It’s a lot of sand that we’re having to move in a short period of time and that’s why we’re closing down the lanes of the Great Highway to accommodate the truck traffic.” Continue reading

Rising Seas Threaten California’s Coastal Past

Higher tides and increased erosion will wipe out archaeological sites

Hear the radio version of this story from KQED’s The California Report.

Mike Newland

A site with evidence of more than 1,000 years of occupation is eroding due to high tides hitting the base of the cliff.

On a sunny day earlier this summer at Point Reyes National Seashore, I scrambled behind Mike Newland as he clambered across gullies and bushwhacked through thigh-high lupine. Once we got to the spot he was aiming for, on the edge of a sandy beach-side cliff, he stopped and started to pick through shells and stones.

“You can see, we’ve got sort of a handful of little guys here, popping out of the ground,” he noted. Some of these that we’re going to see, they weren’t here a year ago, when I came here last time.”

Newland, an archaeologist at Sonoma State University and the president of the Society for California Archaeology, was hunting for Native American artifacts, clues about what life was like in coastal California before Europeans arrived. It was easy for him to find them; wind, rain and tides have eroded these cliffs and exposed the ancient trash piles and stone tools.

This site and these cultural resources — some of them a thousand years old or more — might not be around for much longer. These pieces of California’s history are in danger of disappearing as the Pacific Ocean claws at the base of this cliff. Sea level rise is accelerating the problem. Continue reading

Turning the Tide at Ocean Beach

Pencil-ready: Funding comes through for Ocean Beach adaptation studies

Molly Samuel/KQED

At San Francisco's Ocean Beach, erosion and sea level rise threaten infrastructure.

As an Army Corps of Engineers dredge dumped sand offshore, a crowd of politicians, representatives from local and federal agencies, business owners and volunteers gathered in a crumbling parking lot on Thursday to voice their support for the Ocean Beach Master Plan, a sweeping project to prepare for sea level rise and stem erosion on San Francisco’s western shore.

Project manager Benjamin Grant said that with more than a million dollars in grants now secured, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) is ready to get down to the nitty-gritty details of how to implement the plan, which was officially released in June.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into taking something from a big visionary idea to a project that’s actually in the pipeline at a public agency,” Grant said. Continue reading

Rising Sea Levels Threaten Toxic Sites

Contaminated areas along the San Francisco Bay could be inundated

Quest/KQED

The Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard is one of the EPA's Superfund sites in the Bay Area.

As water levels rise, old landfills, shipyards and industrial sites that line the San Francisco Bay are at risk of being submerged, exposed to higher storm surges and inundated by groundwater. Toxic substances, including arsenic, lead, petroleum products, asbestos and DDT that have been sealed off could leech into groundwater or into the Bay.

While the agencies that have a hand in keeping the Bay clean consider sea level rise in new clean-up projects, they can’t necessarily revisit every old one, according to reporter Nate Seltenrich, who wrote about the problem in this week’s East Bay Express. Continue reading

Sea Level Rise Will Hit Calif. Harder Than Rest of the West

New study zeroes in on sea level rise on the West Coast, finds variation based on location

Scorpions and Centaurs/Flickr

San Francisco International Airport could be underwater within the next few decades.

By 2030, sea levels on most of California’s coast will be five inches higher than ten years ago. By 2100, three feet higher. That’s according to a new report by the National Research Council. The study arrived at numbers that aren’t far from previous projections of sea level rise, but other research has been on a global scale, and this one focused specifically on the West Coast.

“What was surprising to me was Oregon and Washington being so different,” Robert Dalrymple told me; he’s a professor of civil engineering at Johns Hopkins University and chair of the Committee on Sea Level Rise in California, Oregon, and Washington, which wrote the report.

Sea level rise happens at different rates at different places. Continue reading

Controversial SF Bay Development Plan Dead in the Water — For Now

Saltworks, in Redwood City, would have built thousands of homes in salt ponds on the Bay

Lauren Sommer/KQED

Salt ponds in Redwood City where the new Saltworks development is proposed.

The low-lying land along the Bay in Redwood City has been the center of a climate controversy: should the salt ponds that have been producing salt for Cargill for decades be turned into housing, or back into wetlands? Supporters of the development point out that Silicon Valley needs more housing. Supporters of the wetlands respond, birds need a place to land, too — plus, the wetlands will provide a much-needed buffer as the sea level rises.

Now, the fight is on hold: DMB Associates, the developer that is working with Cargill on a plan to turn nearly 1,500 acres of salt ponds into Saltworks, has officially withdrawn its application from the City Council of Redwood City. That’s after an ad hoc subcommittee of the council recommended that the application be denied at this coming Monday’s meeting.
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NOAA’s Margaret Davidson: Watching the Coasts, Preparing for Change

Tonight: The latest in our series of TV interviews with climate change thought leaders

As head of NOAA’s Coastal Services Center, Margaret Davidson has her eye firmly on the future of the country’s coasts, and the threats imposed from rising seas and more extreme weather. Davidson is based in South Carolina, but is a close watcher of California, where coast and climate may be on a collision course.

Climate Watch Senior Editor Craig Miller spoke with Davidson about sea level rise and the California coast. Their conversation will air this evening on This Week in Northern California, on KQED Public Television 9.

Here’s a clip that’s not included the TV broadcast.

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Storms and Rising Seas Present New Threats to Unstable SoCal Peninsula

The geologic features of the Palos Verdes Peninsula make it a hotspot for landslides

Bureau of Engineering / City of Los Angeles

November's sea cliff failure took out 600+ feet of roadway and sidewalks.

The latest Palos Verdes Peninsula slide may calve, and the main slide mass is likely to keep “moving oceanward.” That’s according to a preliminary draft of a geotechnical study commissioned by the City of Los Angeles in early winter, but that’s the extent of the news for now. The same report says based on the studies completed to date, the risk of landslide movement behind last November’s slide — landward into a nature preserve and beyond a new chain link fence — is low.

That’s just the latest from an area southwest of downtown L.A. that has been generating geological news for decades. According to a landslides map by the California Geological Survey, the PV Peninsula boasts 175 slides, 49 of them active.

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Politics, Climate Change and Human Rights in the Maldives

The Island President tells the story of the former president’s fight for climate action

Lincoln Else

President Nasheed at the Copenhagen Climate Summit 2009.

The new documentary, The Island President, depicts former-president Mohamed Nasheed’s efforts to draw the world’s attention to the plight of his country. The islands that make up the Maldives lie barely above sea level. With a few feet of sea level rise, they will be inundated.

John Shenk, the San Francisco-based director of the film, was a guest on KQED’s Forum last week. He talked about how Nasheed, the country’s first democratically-elected president (he resigned in February), and a former human rights campaigner, became a climate change activist.

“He took office and immediately plunged into the climate debate,” Shenk said. “He’s framing the climate debate as a human rights issue. He very much sees the climate fight, the struggle against climate change, as an extension of his fight for democracy.”

In a quote from the film, Nasheed explains: “When we came to power we thought we won the fight. After twenty years, we thought, ‘Look, OK, we’ll have a happy life.’ But we had our first few cabinet meetings, and most of the pending issues were climate change issues. Weather patterns are changing, and that’s having a very big impact on fisheries. We have lost a lot of the shoreline. Our islands are going to be flooded.”

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