Winter storms during the 1997–1998 El Niño caused extensive changes to the beaches and cliffs of the west coast of the United States, a NASA-NOAA-USGS investigation using a scanning airborne laser has found. For example, near Pacifica in central California, the cliff eroded locally as much as 10–13 m landward during the El Niño winter, at least 40 times the long term average erosion rate. However, only several hundred meters away the cliff was stable. This variability in cliff response may be related to differences in local beach changes where an accreting beach protected part of the cliff and an eroding beach exposed another part to attack by waves.
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