Automatic Delineation of Sea-Cliff Limits Using Lidar-Derived High-Resolution DEMs in Southern California

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 3:10 PM
Monica Palaseanu1, Jeff Danielson2, Amy C Foxgrover3, Patrick Barnard3, Cindy Thatcher1 and John C Brock4, (1)USGS, Eastern Geographic Science Center, Reston, VA, United States, (2)USGS, EROS Data Center, Sioux Falls, SD, United States, (3)USGS, Santa Cruz, CA, United States, (4)USGS, Coastal and Marine Geology Program, Reston, VA, United States
Seacliff erosion is a serious hazard with implications for coastal management, and is often estimated using successive hand digitized cliff tops or bases (toe) to assess cliff retreat. Traditionally the recession of the cliff top or cliff base is obtained from aerial photographs, topographic maps, or in situ surveys. Irrespective of how or what is measured to categorize cliff erosion, the position of the cliff top and cliff base is important. Habitually, the cliff top and base are hand digitized even when using high resolution lidar derived DEMs. Even if efforts were made to standardize and eliminate as much as possible any digitizing subjectivity, the delineation of cliffs is time consuming, and depends on the analyst’s interpretation. We propose an automatic procedure to delineate the cliff top and base from high resolution bare-earth DEMs. The method is based on bare-earth high-resolution DEMs, generalized coastal shorelines and approximate measurements of distance between the shoreline and the cliff top. The method generates orthogonal transects and profiles with a minimum spacing equal to the DEM resolution and extracts for each profile xyz coordinates for cliff's top and toe, as well as second major positive and negative inflections (second top and toe) along the profile. The difference between the automated and digitized top and toe, respectively, is smaller than the DEM error margin for over 82% of the top points and 86% of the toe points along a stretch of coast in Del Mar, CA. The larger errors were due either to the failure to remove all vegetation from the bare-earth DEM or errors of interpretation during hand digitizing. The automatic method was further applied between Point Conception and Los Angeles Harbor, CA. This automatic method is repeatable, takes advantage of the bare-earth high-resolution, and is more efficient.