New Scripps Institution of Oceanography Warning System Helps Predict Coastal Flooding


Rishi Deka / The Triton

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A new Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) experimental warning system is helping coastal areas prepare for future flooding by improving flood predicting models.

The Resilient Futures Program is a demonstration project created in collaboration with the Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA). It is designed to upgrade flood alert capabilities at Imperial Beach, one of the areas in San Diego most vulnerable to sea level rise.

During a flood in January 2019, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said in a social media video that the coastal flooding was “the worst that [he had] ever seen in [his] 40 years of living in Imperial Beach.”

The program uses a network of pressure sensors installed in buoys and provided by the Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP). These buoy sensors track wind and ocean conditions, including high tides over 60 miles off the coast.

The warning system used at Imperial Beach serves as a trial run for other low-lying coastal communities threatened by rising sea levels. Besides tracking measurements at Imperial Beach, the program will also monitor shorelines adjacent to South San Diego Bay and the Tijuana Estuary. Large waves and extreme tides occur simultaneously in these areas, exacerbating flood risk.

Conservative scientific projections currently place global sea level rise at two feet by the end of the century. The ongoing effects of climate change could make future flooding of coastal areas common, especially during El Nino years, when increased rainfall heightens the risk of flooding and mudslides in San Diego.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography has not responded to The Triton’s request for comment.

Jeremy Jaquinod is a Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow him @JJaquinod

This article was updated on March 1 at 9:50 a.m. to correct “Scripps Institute of Oceanography” to “Scripps Institution of Oceanography.”