The future of coastal monitoring through satellite remote sensing

Cambridge Prisms: Coastal Futures
By: , and 



Satellite remote sensing is transforming coastal science from a “data-poor” field into a “data-rich” field. Sandy beaches are dynamic landscapes that change in response to long-term pressures, short-term pulses, and anthropogenic interventions. Until recently, the rate and breadth of beach change have outpaced our ability to monitor those changes, due to the spatiotemporal limitations of our observational capacity. Over the past several decades, only a handful of beaches worldwide have been regularly monitored with accurate yet expensive in situ surveys. The long-term coastal-change data of these few well-monitored beaches have led to in-depth understanding of many site-specific coastal processes. However, because the best-monitored beaches are not representative of all beaches, much remains unknown about the processes and fate of the other >99% of unmonitored beaches worldwide. The fleet of Earth-observing satellites has enabled multiscale monitoring of beaches, for the very first time, by providing imagery with global coverage and up to daily frequency. The long-standing and ever-expanding archive of satellite imagery will enable coastal scientists to investigate coastal change at sites vulnerable to future sea-level rise, that is, (almost) everywhere. In the past decade, our capability to observe coastal change from space has grown substantially with computing and algorithmic power. Yet, further advances are needed in automating monitoring using machine learning, deep learning, and computer vision to fully leverage this massive treasure trove of data. Extensive monitoring and investigation of the causes and effects of coastal change at the requisite spatiotemporal scales will provide coastal managers with additional, valuable information to evaluate problems and solutions, addressing the potential for widespread beach loss due to accelerated sea-level rise, development, and reduced sediment supply. Monitoring from Earth-observing satellites is currently the only means of providing seamless data with high spatiotemporal resolution at the global scale of the impending impacts of climate change on coastal systems.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The future of coastal monitoring through satellite remote sensing
Series title Cambridge Prisms: Coastal Futures
DOI 10.1017/cft.2022.4
Volume 1
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description e10, 18 p.
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