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Sean Vitousek’s research is making waves

Professor Sean Vitousek

Sean Vitousek, a research assistant professor in CME, led a recent study showing the potential decimation of Southern California’s beaches by the year 2100 that has been making waves in the press.

Vitousek and a team of scientists developed computer model called CoSMoS-COAST (Coastal Storm Modeling System – Coastal One-line Assimilated Simulation Tool) to predict that with limited human intervention, 31 percent to 67 percent of beaches may become completely eroded (up to existing coastal infrastructure or sea-cliffs) under scenarios of sea-level rise of one to two meters.

“Beaches are perhaps the most iconic feature of California, and the potential for losing this identity is real,” said Vitousek, who is the director of the Environmental Fluid Mechanics group at UIC. “The effect of California losing its beaches is not just a matter of affecting the tourism economy. Losing the protecting swath of beach sand between us and the pounding surf exposes critical infrastructure, businesses and homes to damage. Beaches are natural resources, and it is likely that human management efforts must increase in order to preserve them.”

The full report, “A model integrating longshore and cross-shore processes for predicting long-term shoreline response to climate change,” is available online in the “Journal of Geophysical Research” by the American Geophysical Union.