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Case Study

Sea Cliff Failure and Coastal Landslides

By Cheryl J. Hapke, Ph.D., Senior Consultant


Large coastal landslides and episodic sea cliff retreat threaten communities, coastal scenic highways, and other critical infrastructure along high-relief coasts. There have been a number of fatalities in recent years as cliff failures are episodic and difficult to predict. We took on the challenge of investigating sea cliff retreat along the California coast, working with stakeholders such as the State of California, the California Department of Transportation, and federal agencies.


Integral staff developed innovative field and remote sensing techniques to create both localized and regional perspectives on where and why failures occurred. We defined the primary drivers of failure events, identified the areas likely to be most vulnerable in the future, and developed state-of-the art statistical modeling tools to forecast where and under what conditions cliffs were likely to fail in the future.


We delivered analyses and interpretations of the data and modeling to stakeholders to provide the best science for future management plans and policy actions. The results of our efforts helped to reshape the landscape of the science of sea cliff retreat and landslide processes.

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