Photo by Andy Dingley
In California offshore waters, sustained northwesterly winds have been identified as a key energy resource which could contribute substantially to California’s renewable energy mandate (Senate Bill 100). These winds drive the upwelling of deeper, cool, nutrient-rich waters that sustains a thriving ecosystem. The development of large-scale offshore wind energy projects has the potential to reduce the wind stress at the sea surface, which could have local and/or regional implications on California wind-driven upwelling, nutrient delivery, and ecosystem dynamics.
This preliminary study, with funding from the California Energy Commission and OPC, evaluated the effects of offshore wind turbines in the Morro Bay, Diablo Canyon, and Humboldt Call Areas. The study is ongoing and in preparation for peer-review. The preliminary findings for Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon found that modest changes to wind speeds are found in the lee of wind farms (approximately 5 percent reduction), which leads to an a decrease in upwelled physical volume transport to the coastal zone. However, the Diablo Canyon Call Area is no longer being pursued so the findings are not applicable to the current Morro Bay Call Area. Since the effect of this decrease on the ecosystem was not evaluated in this study, no conclusions on ecosystem effects can be drawn from the modeled physical changes.
While changes are also observed near the Humboldt Call Area, they are substantially smaller than those seen near Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon. Future work will explore impacts to upwelling under various turbine configurations, layouts and turbine densities, while also evaluating upwelling impacts from offshore wind development in the face of climate change.
Coastal flooding across the United States coastline will increase significantly over the next 30 years, according to Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States, a new report by an interagency sea level rise task force including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other federal agencies. The report forecasts sea level rise to the year 2150 and projects that sea levels along U.S. coastlines will rise between 10 to 12 inches on average above today’s levels by 2050. The Ocean Protection Council will use this latest science to update California’s 2018 Sea Level Rise Guidance in 2023.
The report offers four key takeaways:
- The Next 30 Years of Sea Level Rise: Sea level along the U.S. coastline is projected to rise, on average, 10-to-12-inches in the next 30 years, which will be as much as the rise measured over the last 100 years (1920 – 2020). Sea level rise will vary regionally along U.S. coasts because of changes in both land and ocean height.
- More Damaging Flooding Projected: Sea level rise will create a profound shift in coastal flooding over the next 30 years by causing tide and storm surge heights to increase and reach further inland. By 2050, “moderate” (typically damaging) flooding is expected to occur, on average, more than 10 times as often as it does today, and can be intensified by local factors.
- Emissions Matter: Current and future emissions matter. About two feet of sea level rise along the U.S. coastline is increasingly likely between 2020 and 2100 because of emissions to date. Failing to curb future emissions could cause an additional 1.5-to-5 feet of rise for a total of 3.5-to-7 feet by the end of this century.
- Continual Tracking: Continuously tracking how and why sea level is changing is an important part of informing plans for adaptation. Our ability to monitor and understand the individual factors that contribute to sea level rise allows us to track sea level changes in a way that has never before been possible (e.g., using satellites to track global ocean levels and ice sheet thickness). Ongoing and expanded monitoring will be critical as sea levels continue to rise.
Fortunately, California is investing to protect our most vulnerable communities, save our beaches and build coastal resilience:
- Sea Level Rise California: Find out more about how sea level rise is expected to impact California at the California Natural Resources Agency’s “The Ocean is Moving In” website.
- Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries: This video series goes on location to tell the stories of where and how California is helping promote climate resilience on the coast in the face of rising seas.
- Making California’s Coast Resilient to Sea Level Rise: Principles for Aligned State Action: California state agencies with coastal, bay, and shoreline climate resilience responsibilities, including for coastal infrastructure and Californians’ safety, have endorsed a set of Principles for Aligned State Action. These Principles will guide unified, effective action toward sea-level rise resilience for California’s coastal communities, ecosystems and economies.
Find the Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States and accompanying FAQ here, and explore the Interagency Sea Level Rise Scenario Tool here.
“As we look to 2022, our goal at the agency is to… continue California’s global leadership, combating climate change, transitioning our economy, and protecting our people and nature in the meantime. I believe strongly that people are resilient and that nature is resilient. We can adapt and weather these changes we are experiencing right now, and we at the Natural Resources Agency and across state government are focused on strengthening the resilience of our communities, our residents, and of our natural places to these changes we are experiencing. I’m optimistic that we will work harder than ever before and make unprecedented process toward building this resilience.” – from California Natural Resources Secretary and Ocean Protection Council Chair Wade Crowfoot’s end of the year video message
As 2021 brought global challenges to the forefront, the state of California responded with bold, decisive actions to protect our coast and ocean. OPC staff led multiple projects designed to restore wetlands, improve water quality, prevent plastic pollution, respond to environmental justice inequities, promote sustainable fisheries, protect marine wildlife and build resilience to climate change.
Despite the many looming threats, we continue to find hope in the form of scientific solutions to the planet’s biggest problems and in the promising work done by our grantees on the front lines. Join us in celebrating specific achievements from the past year below: … read more
At its December 7 meeting, the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) for the first time approved funding exclusively for coastal water quality projects that directly benefit Environmental Justice (EJ) Communities. A total of $7.5M in Proposition 1 funds will be disbursed to six projects that support multi-benefit ecosystem and watershed protection or restoration, habitat enhancement, resilience to climate change and community engagement.
While OPC regularly funds important ocean- and coast-related projects throughout the state, this is the Council’s first time soliciting projects that provide direct benefits to state-defined disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged communities, California Native American tribes, and communities that score above 80 percent on CalEnviroScreen results.
Secretary for the California Natural Resources Agency and OPC Chair Wade Crowfoot commended the state’s investment in the proposed community-driven projects, saying, “This effort is a really powerful model for how the state can prioritize funding that more effectively advances both natural resources protection and environmental justice.”
OPC Wetlands Program Manager Maria Rodriguez agreed. “This is OPC’s first step in accomplishing a dedicated pathway for funding EJ communities and projects that put community benefits at the forefront and emphasize social and economic benefits,” she said. “These are elements that OPC is working to incorporate into other funding opportunities to ensure community benefits are meaningful, direct and can be delivered through projects or programs OPC is leading.”
Funded projects span California’s coastline
… read more
“The technical sea level rise studies we’ve completed to-date have shown the coastal hazard impacts we can expect in the coming decades – and that gives us the ability to share that information with the people who are going to be directly affected. That’s crucial because public awareness and understanding of these hazards is critical if we’re going to be able plan effectively for the future.” – Julia Elkin
Today we are Stinson Beach, located on the scenic Marin County coastline, talking with Julia Elkin, the Project Manager on this Prop 68 Project to develop and deliver a community adaptation planning process for Stinson Beach that addresses existing and future coastal hazard impacts and sea-level rise.
Located about an hour north of San Francisco, Stinson Beach is a highly valued California beach to both residents and visitors. Many Californians visit Stinson Beach for relief during extreme heat events or poor air quality days. Stinson Beach has immense value – and it is highly vulnerable to sea level rise. “Our opportunity now is to work with the public and plan for that slow-moving emergency that is sea level rise because the decisions that we can make now help us plan for a future that meets our community values and reduces harm to both our natural systems and human communities,” says Elkin.
Challenges with coastal erosion, flooding and storm surges are not new to Stinson Beach. That said, climate change will only exacerbate the intensity and frequency of these coastal hazards. Adaptation responses that will be explored through the Stinson Beach Adaptation and Resilience Collaboration, or Stinson ARC, will include nature-based strategies, long-term realignment of existing structures and infrastructure and structural options. … read more
“We would like our project to be an example of how to invite tribal entities to participate in and be integral to a collaborative coastal resilience planning process. The Trinidad area has three strong tribal entities that take a very active interest in what happens here. Everyone can benefit when we work together.” – Becky Price-Hall
Today we are in the City of Trinidad, within the ancestral coastal village of Tsurai in the aboriginal territory of the Yurok people since time immemorial.
This Prop 68 Project seeks to develop the Trinidad Community Coastal Resiliency Planning Project, the primary goal of which is to build community capacity and a shared vision for coastal resilience in the Trinidad area. Project managers will develop the Coastal Resilience Action Plan to be our roadmap, including a set of prioritized adaptation measures and implementation projects that emerge through the community engagement process.
Community engagement is the key component of this project. “This coastal resilience planning process is not just a City exercise with input solicited from others. This is a Trinidad area or regional plan,” says Becky Price-Hall, Project and Grant Coordinator for the City of Trinidad. … read more
(Intro to the series here)
“Sea level rise will affect everybody and everything… We need to spread the word and work together.” – Hilanea Wilkinson
Today we are in the ancestral territory of the Wiyot, in what is now known as Humboldt County, talking with members of the Prop 68 project carrying out Phase I of the Wiyot Climate Change Adaptation Plan. The goal of this phase of the project is to identify cultural and natural resources within its ancestral lands and waters vulnerable to SLR and climate change.
Interviews with Tribal elders, youth, and community members is an integral part of this project as the project team works towards developing a use protocol for the collection and application of traditional ecological knowledge, or TEK. The TEK protocol will serve as guidance on how to appropriately and respectfully apply TEK, with the ultimate goal of ensuring the protection of tribal cultural resources. … read more
(Intro to the series here)
“I hope we don’t fall into reactionary status quo.. but rather, take some bold steps in planning actions to try to adapt to sea-level rise in ways that might be a good bet.” – Charles Lester
Today we are talking with the University of California Santa Barbara project team leading a statewide evaluation of sea-level rise adaptation planning across California’s 76 coastal jurisdictions. One of the products of this work will be a user-friendly online inventory of adaptation planning occurring throughout the state. The Ocean Protection Council and the Office of Planning and Research are closely tracking the progress of this project and exploring opportunities to align and potentially merge the products from this work with the state’s Adaptation Clearinghouse.
Applying lessons learned from current and past action, the project team will develop recommendations for improving California’s coastal adaptation planning process, including the Local Coastal Plan policy update process. They will also assess alignment between local plans and the State’s Sea Level Rise Principles, released October 2020. … read more
(Intro to the series here)
“By working together to develop a shared understanding of the risks we face as well as to prioritize the actions we can take to address them, we can be better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.” – Emily Young
Today we are in San Diego County talking with members of the project team leading the development of a coastal resilience roadmap that will facilitate accelerated action for coastal resilience projects and investments that prioritize benefits to underserved communities in the region.
This Prop 68 Project will build capacity for the region as a whole and design an equitable approach that is community-led, allowing individuals living in these impacted or at-risk areas to inform the future direction of how the area is managed. The Nonprofit Institute and the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative are partnering with the Local Government Commission and Resilient Cities Catalyst to complete this work. This large collaboration exemplifies how inclusivity has been at the center of this roadmap process since its inception. … read more
(SACRAMENTO, California) – The California Natural Resources Agency today launched the nation’s first statewide campaign to raise awareness about the urgent threat that sea level rise poses to coastal and inland communities.
Dubbed “The Ocean Is Moving In,” the campaign features humorous videos and posters of various sea creatures taking up residence in people’s homes with the goal of inspiring people to visit the state’s new sea level rise website. While the tone is light-hearted, the messaging underscores the very serious impacts sea level rise will have on quality of life unless Californians start actively preparing:
- 60 percent of California beaches are highly vulnerable to sea level rise.
- $150 billion in California property is threatened by severe flooding.
- Salt-water intrusion could compromise groundwater and drinking supplies.
- Transportation hubs like the Pacific Coast Highway and SFO could be immobilized.
… read more