Some Southern California estuaries may be more vulnerable than others to larger waves and higher water levels associated with El Niño events and climate change, according to a recent study by researchers at the Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. 

Southern California estuaries usually don’t receive substantial river flows and depend heavily on tides for water circulation. This, combined with migrating sand at the estuary mouth, means that they can be vulnerable to closure–leading to impacts such as increased water levels and flooding of nearby infrastructure, poor water quality and dramatic drops in dissolved oxygen levels which negatively impact species that live in the estuary.

Estuaries and their associated wetlands are important for water quality and biodiversity. They also lower the risk of coastal flooding and may take up carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. These characteristics make estuaries valuable to California’s economy and ecology. 

Scientists are trying to understand how estuaries will respond to sea-level rise and a changing climate, so that coastal managers and landowners can prepare accordingly.  El Niño conditions along the California coast often give a preview of the predicted effects of climate change locally, such as higher sea levels and strong wave events.  Read more at the link below.