Region Central Coast


The Central Coast region, which includes the counties of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz, is characterized by hardwood forests, scrublands, and herbaceous grasslands that comprise most of its land cover. Coastal stretches include sand dunes, sandy beaches, and bluff and cliff coastlines. With approximately 2.3 million residents across the five counties, most cities are small to medium-sized. The region’s main economic drivers include tourism, agriculture, and related food processing activities, as well as power and oil production.


Temperatures vary depending on distance from the coast. Maximum and minimum temperatures for the entire Central Coast will continue to increase through the next century, with greater increases in the inland region. By mid-century, the average annual maximum temperature is expected to rise between 4–5°F across all five counties.

Rain, and Fire

The Central Coast varies in precipitation depending on location. Overall, the Central Coast is experiencing a decrease in annual precipitation, and it is projected that the variability in precipitation will increase substantially with extremely wet and dry years becoming more extreme. For example, the wettest day of the year is expected to increase up to 35 percent. In addition, projected future droughts are likely to be a serious challenge to the region’s already stressed water supplies. Frequent and sometimes large wildfires will continue to be a major disturbance, and post-fire recovery time may be lengthened.


Sea-level rise is accelerating and poses a significant threat to the regions’ coastal communities. Sea-level rise is projected to increase 1.1–1.9 feet by 2050, and 3.3–6.9 feet (with the potential for 10.1 feet under extreme sea-level rise scenarios) by the end of the century. Coastal wave events in combination with rising seas will drive coastal flooding landward, increasing the region’s vulnerability.

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