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U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 487

A Seamless, High-Resolution, Coastal Digital Elevation Model (DEM) for Southern California

By Patrick L. Barnard and Daniel Hoover


Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (5 MB)

A seamless, 3-meter digital elevation model (DEM) was constructed for the entire Southern California coastal zone, extending 473 km from Point Conception to the Mexican border. The goal was to integrate the most recent, high-resolution datasets available (for example, Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) topography, multibeam and single beam sonar bathymetry, and Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (IfSAR) topography) into a continuous surface from at least the 20-m isobath to the 20-m elevation contour.

This dataset was produced to provide critical boundary conditions (bathymetry and topography) for a modeling effort designed to predict the impacts of severe winter storms on the Southern California coast (Barnard and others, 2009). The hazards model, run in real-time or with prescribed scenarios, incorporates atmospheric information (wind and pressure fields) with a suite of state-of-the-art physical process models (tide, surge, and wave) to enable detailed prediction of water levels, run-up, wave heights, and currents. Research-grade predictions of coastal flooding, inundation, erosion, and cliff failure are also included. The DEM was constructed to define the general shape of nearshore, beach and cliff surfaces as accurately as possible, with less emphasis on the detailed variations in elevation inland of the coast and on bathymetry inside harbors. As a result this DEM should not be used for navigation purposes.

  • Report text PDF (5 MB)
  • Metadata folder. This folder contains the metadata in four formats: HTML, HTML in FAQ style, ASCII text, and XML (144 kB total)
  • Data folder. This folder contains the data in three subfolders: DataCoverageAreas, DEMCoverageAreas, and DEMs (the main data collection). It also contains an expanded metadata file in .xls format (DEM_Metadata.xls) (1.3 GB total)
  • This report is available only on the Web.

For additional information:
Contact Information, Western Coastal and Marine Geology
U.S. Geological Survey
Pacific Science Center
400 Natural Bridges Drive
Santa Cruz, California 95060

Part of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Barnard, P.L., and Hoover, D., 2010, A seamless, high-resolution coastal digital elevation model (DEM) for southern California. U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 487, 8 p. and database



DEM Construction Methods

DEM Construction Overview

The Digital Files


Reference Cited

Data folders

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