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Title:California’s cliffs are crumbling as climate change reshapes the coast

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Among the coveted places to live in this city, if you have the money, is West Cliff Drive. How much longer that will be true is the question.

The cliff-top road is falling into the Pacific in large chunks, leaving gaping holes and closing lanes along a normally busy street. A process that has taken place over centuries is quickening after a rare series of winter and spring storms that brought abnormally high tides, potent surf and lots of rain.

The sea is taking back the land. It is happening at various speeds along much of California’s coast, changing the ragged western edge of the country and threatening neighborhoods, highways and ways of life.

For decades, California has built to the brink of the continent, a risk-reward calculus where the reward of a sparkling Pacific Ocean with your morning coffee easily trumps some future risk of a collapsing cliff. The cliffs, some more than 300 feet straight up, star in car commercials and TV shows, the edge-of-seat finales of action movies and, in real life, serve as the perfect takeoff point for paragliders.

But today it is some of the state’s most famed cliffs, overlooking about 500 miles of California’s coast, that are among those most imperiled by rising sea levels and more potent storms.

In Isla Vista, the site of University of California at Santa Barbara, apartment buildings regularly lose front patios and facades to the encroaching ocean, sliding down 200-foot cliffs toward the beach. A major coastal railroad track between Orange County and San Diego is closed frequently - most recently in April after new slides - as erosion undermines the ground beneath it. Repair costs for several sliding sections have reached $14 million so far.

Highway 1, the age-old tourism route along the central coast of the state, is closed frequently because of landslides. The Lost Coast in Humboldt County to the north, is losing its cliffs at greater rate than any place in the...

Organization:Washington Post - Climate and Environment
Date Added:5/26/2023 6:39:38 AM