SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Last year’s El Nino is now being called the most powerful weather event of its kind ever recorded.
The USGS says California’s coastline suffered erosion to a degree never seen before and it may never recover.
There were pounding waves and crumbling cliffs. The winter of 2015-16 saw the Pacific Ocean crashing into businesses, destroying decades-old icons.
The researchers focused on seasonal changes on 29 beaches along about 1,200 miles of the West Coast.
They used 3D surface maps, GPS topographic surveys, and measurements of sand levels, along with wave and water level data from each beach between 1997 and 2016.
The average erosion was 76 percent above average, way above the previous record of 49 percent.
Last year’s El Nino generated unusually powerful waves. Monitoring buoys at Pt. Reyes and Monterey reported historic high numbers.
And nowhere are the results more evident than in the cliffside community of Pacifica, as KRON4 reported in January of last year.
Historically, beaches rebuild themselves during La Nina years, mainly through river runoff.
But the USGS says climate change is interrupting that cycle.
Global warming means El Ninos will occur more frequently and they will be stronger.
And California will get less rainfall, reducing river flow.
All of that, sobering news for the 25 million people living along the West Coast.