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NCCOS Research Project

Assessing the Geographic Variability in Vulnerability to Climate Change and Coastal Risks in Los Angeles County

Began in May 2017 and will end in 2019

Coastal communities are increasingly vulnerable to climate effects, such as sea level rise and coastal erosion. To address these and other changing coastal risks in Los Angeles County, we are applying the NCCOS Integrated Vulnerability Assessment Framework to this densely populated and highly urbanized region, along with further spatial and economic analyses. This work will provide information to better protect, advance, and manage climate change impacts within local communities.


Why We Care
Los Angeles County is a highly complex and diverse area. As one of the nation’s largest and most populated counties, with 4,084 square miles and approximately 10 million residents, its geography, ecology, and communities are highly variable, as are its climate impacts and risks. The county is impacted by a variety of threats, such as bluff erosion, sea level rise, wildfire, saltwater intrusion, wave-driven run up, earthquakes, and tsunamis, as well as concerns over water availability, water quality, and air quality. Similarly, Los Angeles County faces extreme variation in social and economic factors, including disparities in income, education, and employment opportunities. Our study aims to examine these complexities across the county to inform decision making within the region.

Aerial view of Los Angeles urban sprawl.

Aerial view of Los Angeles urban sprawl. Credit: Chloe Fleming, NOAA.

Los Angeles County coastal homes at risk from coastal flooding and erosion.

Los Angeles County coastal homes at risk from coastal flooding and erosion. Credit: Theresa Goedeke, NOAA.













What We Are Doing
To address vulnerability to climate effects and coastal risks in the study region, we will first adapt NCCOS’s Integrated Vulnerability Assessment Framework to Los Angeles County. The Framework measures social, structural, and natural resource vulnerability and intersects those with coastal risks to identify areas of high vulnerability and high risk. Integration of a wide range of vulnerability and risk profiles enables users to more easily understand the complexities of overall vulnerability and risk within their region. The Framework was developed for the Town of Oxford and Talbot County in Maryland, and was then extended to NOAA’s Choptank Habitat Focus Area in the Chesapeake Bay region. In both applications, local stakeholders identified coastal and stormwater flooding as risks of highest priority. In Los Angeles, however, partners and stakeholders have identified additional climate risks to incorporate, such as erosion and wildfire.

Phase I of this project:

1) Develops location-specific indicators for social, structural, and natural resource vulnerability;

2) Identifies local coastal risks of most concern and their impacts;

3) Intersects base condition vulnerabilities with identified coastal risks; and

4) Identifies areas of high risk and high vulnerability for further analysis.

Phase II uses areas and priorities identified in Phase I, in concert with local expert knowledge and stakeholder engagement, to analyze economic impacts, community-scale changes, and further geographic variability.

This project relies on partnerships with University of Southern California Sea Grant and NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management (West Coast Region).


Benefits of our Work
Both phases of this project provide invaluable science to decision makers, planners, and partners that will inform management decisions. Without these types of analyses, coastal communities and their economies are at a disadvantage in the face of climate change and related impacts. This work provides information to better protect, plan for, and manage climate and coastal impacts within Los Angeles County and its local communities.

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources, in direct support of NOS priorities, offices, and customers, and to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science
1305 East West Highway, Rm 8110
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: (240) 533-0300 / Fax: (301) 713-4353
Email: nccos.webcontent@noaa.gov

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