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California beaches could be severely damaged by 2100

IANS | Los Angeles |

A group of US scientists have predicted that 31 to 67 percent of Southern California beaches could be severely damaged due to rising sea levels by 2100, a new study has revealed.

The study was published online on Wednesday by the American Geophysical Union in their Journal of Geophysical Research, Xinhua news agency reported.

"Beaches are perhaps the most iconic feature of California, and the potential for losing this identity is real. The effect of California losing its beaches is not just a matter of affecting the tourism economy," Sean Vitousek, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

"Losing the protecting swath of beach sand between us and the pounding surf exposes critical infrastructure, businesses and homes to damage. Beaches are natural resources, and it is likely that human management efforts must increase in order to preserve them," said Vitousek.

Scientists applied the "CoSMoS-COAST", a newly-developed shoreline change computer modelling system for coastal hazard assessment and management planning, to simulate sandy shoreline evolution along 500 km of coastline in Southern California, which hosts complex mixtures of beach settings variably backed by dunes, cliffs, estuaries, river mouths, and urban infrastructure, providing applicability of the model to virtually any coastal setting.

"Beaches in Southern California are a crucial feature of the economy, and the first line of defence against coastal storm impacts for the 18 million residents in the region. This study indicates that we will have to perform massive and costly interventions to preserve these beaches in the future under the erosive pressures of anticipated sea level rise, or risk losing many of the economic and protective benefits beaches provide," said US Geological Survey (USGS) geologist and co-author, Patrick Barnard.

As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the window to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius appears to be closing. Associated projections for sea-level rise generally range near or below 1 metre by 2100.