Scientists warn more landslides imminent in San Diego

Portion of Del Mar cliff collapsed in summer
Posted at 10:59 AM, Sep 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-21 14:46:43-04

DEL MAR, Calif. (KGTV) - The stability of San Diego County's coastal cliffs is concerning local scientists.

No one was hurt on August 22 when part of of an oceanfront cliff collapsed in Del Mar, but experts believe we should take it as a warning sign.

“Little small pieces of cliff are falling off all the time,” said Adam Young, a scientist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "It's the big ones that get our attention."

Young and his team study coastal cliff erosion from the border all the way to North County. He says more more landslides are coming.

“This area still to me looks very unstable,” said Young, pointing to August’s bluff collapse. “Cracks are currently on top of the cliffs of the section here and [it’ll] probably come down pretty soon.”

Scripps regularly monitors LIDAR scans of the cliffs in north San Diego. 

“It’s very similar to radar...basically it shoots out about one million lasers every second and they bounce off the cliff to the beach and they come back to the scanner and we get that information,” said Young. “We're able to put them in the real world coordinate high resolution map.”

Following August's collapse, Adam and his team installed pressure sensors in the sand below the cliff. 

These sensors will be installed all winter, typically the time when cliffs are most likely to see erosion given the rains and bigger waves. The technology will monitor the wave erosion and further landslides.

“The cliffs are a hazardous place people have been killed from landslides in our area,” said Young, “so they should be careful about where they put the towel down on the beach.”