November 7, 2005
Living with the Changing California Coast:
Essential reading for coast dwellers from UCSC geologists
By Tim Stephens
The famously beautiful California coast is a powerful attractor,
drawing people to live and build in the coastal zone despite
ongoing erosion, periodic storm damage, and regulatory hurdles.
For those determined to live next to this dynamic shoreline,
the new book Living with the Changing California Coast
should be required reading.
Gary Griggs will give a presentation on his new book
at a special event at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center
on November 17.
Written by Gary Griggs, Kiki Patsch, and Lauret Savoy, with
contributions from more than a dozen other coastal experts,
the book was released in November from the University of California
Press. It is a completely revised and updated edition of the
1985 book Living with the California Coast, by Griggs
and Savoy. Griggs is a professor of Earth sciences and director
of the Institute of Marine Sciences. Patsch and Savoy both worked
with Griggs as graduate students, and Patsch is now a postdoctoral
researcher at the University of Virginia, while Savoy is a professor
of geology and environmental studies at Mount Holyoke College.
The first part of the book provides a wealth of background
information on coastal processes and hazards, with advice for
home buyers, residents, coastal managers, and developers. There
are sections on climate change, rising sea levels, coastal erosion,
responding to coastal hazards, and coastal policy and legislation.
The second part of the book consists of 12 chapters, each providing
a comprehensive discussion of one geographic section of the
"There has been a lot of investment on the coast, both
public and private, so we need to heighten people's awareness
of these issues," Griggs said.
Much has changed in the 20 years since the first edition appeared.
People have continued to move to the coast, property values
have skyrocketed, and the coast has been battered by stronger
and more frequent storms. Starting with the El Niño event
of 1978, the coastal climate shifted from a more moderate phase
of its cycle to a period dominated by major El Niño events
that bring powerful and destructive storms to the California
"We entered this period of big El Niño events,
with stronger storms, more cliff retreat, more beach erosion,
and more seawall proposals. The combination of more people,
more hazards, and higher property values has focused a lot of
attention on this narrow strip of shoreline that is constantly
changing," Griggs said.
The book includes nearly 300 photographs and 81 detailed maps
covering the entire coast. Patsch prepared the maps using geographic
information system (GIS) technology to provide precise information
on geologic hazards along all 1,100 miles of the California
coastline. The maps include hazard ratings, erosion rates where
available, descriptions of coastal landforms, locations of seawalls
and other types of armoring, and other useful and interesting
information about every stretch of shoreline.
The photographs include dramatic illustrations of damage to
coastal structures, as well as extensive documentation of natural
and man-made features along the coast. Many of the photos were
provided by the California
Coastal Records Project, which includes photographs of the
entire coastline on its web site.
"We have much better photo coverage of the coast in this
edition, and the GIS-based maps are more accurate and easier
to read," Griggs said.
Living with the Changing California Coast is an essential
resource for those intending to buy or build along the coast,
for planners in coastal cities and counties, and for anyone
who needs or wants specific information about California's various
coastal regions. Aside from its practical value, the book provides
a fascinating look at one of the most beautiful coastlines in
the world, with information on its natural history, the forces
that have shaped it, and how it continues to evolve over time.
"I think it should appeal to anybody who is interested
in the coast and curious about the way the coastline operates,
how it changes, and what are the issues we face in dealing with
coastal hazards," Griggs said.
Griggs will give a presentation on his new book at a special
event at the Seymour
Marine Discovery Center on Thursday, November 17, at 6 p.m.
There will be a wine and cheese reception after the reading;
admission is $10 for the general public, $6 for members. Griggs
will also discuss the book at Bookshop Santa Cruz on Thursday,
November 10, at 7:30 p.m.
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