The national assessment of shoreline change: a GIS compilation of vector cliff edges and associated cliff erosion data for the California coast

Open-File Report 2007-1112

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The U.S. Geological Survey has generated a comprehensive data clearinghouse of digital vector cliff edges and associated rates of cliff retreat along the open-ocean California coast. These data, which are presented herein, were compiled as part of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Assessment of Shoreline Change Project.

Cliff erosion is a chronic problem along many coastlines of the United States. As coastal populations continue to grow and community infrastructures are threatened by erosion, there is increased demand for accurate information including rates and trends of coastal cliff retreat. There is also a critical need for these data to be consistent from one region to another. One objective of this work is to a develop standard, repeatable methodology for mapping and analyzing cliff edge retreat so that periodic, systematic, and internally consistent updates of cliff edge position and associated rates of erosion can be made at a national scale.

This data compilation for open-ocean cliff edges for the California coast is a separate, yet related study to Hapke and others, 2006 documenting shoreline change along sandy shorelines of the California coast, which is itself one in a series that includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Southeast Atlantic coast (Morton and others, 2004; Morton and Miller, 2005). Future reports and data compilations will include coverage of the Northeast U.S., the Great Lakes, Hawaii and Alaska. Cliff edge change is determined by comparing the positions of one historical cliff edge digitized from maps with a modern cliff edge derived from topographic LIDAR (light detection and ranging) surveys. Historical cliff edges for the California coast represent the 1920s-1930s time-period; the most recent cliff edge was delineated using data collected between 1998 and 2002. End-point rate calculations were used to evaluate rates of erosion between the two cliff edges. Please refer to our full report on cliff edge erosion along the California coastline at for additional information regarding methods and results (Hapke and others, 2007).

Data in this report are organized into downloadable layers by region (Northern, Central and Southern California) and are provided as vector datasets with accompanying metadata. Vector cliff edges may represent a compilation of data from one or more sources and the sources used are included in the dataset metadata. This project employs the Environmental Systems Research Institute's (ESRI) ArcGIS as it's Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping tool and contains several data layers (shapefiles) that are used to create a geographic view of the California coast. The vector data form a basemap comprising polygon and line themes that include a U.S. coastline (1:80,000), U.S. cities, and state boundaries.

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Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
The national assessment of shoreline change: a GIS compilation of vector cliff edges and associated cliff erosion data for the California coast
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Version 1.1, revised Sep. 2008
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Western Coastal and Marine Geology
HTML Document
United States
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