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Open-File Report 00-438

Geology and Coastal Hazards in the Northern Monterey Bay, California

Field Trip Guidebook, November 4, 2000

By Cheryl Hapke

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.8 MB)Introduction

The purpose of this field trip is to explore the relationships between local geology, coastal hazards, and human influences in the northern Monterey Bay, which is a tectonically active high wave energy coastal environment. Seacliffs, shore platforms, pocket beaches and a headland/embayment morphology characterize this rocky coastline. Many studies of the onshore and offshore geology and geophysics, the local wave climate, and the effects of large storm events and earthquakes on the coastline have been conducted in this region (see Related Reading section).

This field trip summarizes many of the findings of these research investigations, and also considers the relationship between the rates and styles of seacliff erosion and the variations in the local geology. The field trip stops allow the participant to examine seacliff sites of different geological lithologies, geographic orientations, and varying protection from wave attack, and consider how these variables affect not only the rate or magnitude of seacliff retreat but also the styles of retreat. In general the two primary forcing factors in the retreat of seacliffs are marine and terrestrial processes. At the various field trip stops, the relative importance of these processes in shaping the coastline at that particular location will be explored. Where beaches have developed, whether naturally or by emplacement of man-made structures, field trip stops are designed to look at the occurrence of the beaches (why they exist where they do) and to understand the response of the beaches to large storm events. Finally, this trip focuses on the various coastline protection structures that have been built in the area, and their effectiveness in protecting development on the beaches or at the tops of the seacliffs.

The first stop of the trip is the Long Marine Lab facility where the seacliffs are composed of the most resistant geological unit in the area, the Miocene Santa Cruz Mudstone. This stop also includes discussion of some of the interesting geological features associated with this part of the Bay, including the arches at Natural Bridges State Beach. The field trip stops are progressively east and south, moving into the inner Monterey Bay, as well as into the less resistant lithologies of the late Miocene to Pliocene Purisima Formation, and finally the Pleistocene Aromas Sand. The route will follow the coast wherever possible so participants can get a full perspective of the northern Monterey Bay coastline, even where stops have not been planned.

First posted December 4, 2000

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

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Suggested citation:

Hapke, Cheryl, 2000, Geology and Coastal Hazards in the Northern Monterey Bay, California, Field Trip Guidebook, November 4, 2000: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 00-438, 21 pp.,




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Field Trip Guide

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