SANTA MONICA—The city of Santa Monica who recently partnered with the US Geological Survey and USC, has unveiled a virtual reality viewfinder to the public on the Santa Monica Pier. The virtual reality experience aims to depict how a century of climate change will affect the Santa Monica coastline.

The virtual reality viewfinder, utilizing a platform known as “The OWL,” grants individuals a 360 degree view of the coastline from the north side of the pier across from Pier Burger.

Visitors to the installation will first see the Santa Monica coastline as it is today. Followed by a series of subsequent images that are displayed illustrating the potential effects of man-made climate change over a century. The images instill a sense of immediacy against otherwise far-off impacts often associated with climate change.

“This is a unique way of being able to see what our true vulnerabilities will be looking into the future,” explained Juliette Finzi Hart with USGS.

Some estimates have sea levels off the California coast rising six feet over the next century. The demonstration also depicts how storm surges could push tides far inland. Throughout the virtual reality experience, participants are posed a series of questions meant to assist city planners and help researchers gain valuable insight as to how the public views the issue. Concluding the virtual reality experience is a potential nature based adaptation solution to the rising sea levels depicted throughout the demonstration.

“We want people to get an idea of what they face going forward so wise decision-making can take place,” said Phyllis Grifman with the Sea Grant program at USC. Santa Monica is interested in educating residents about the challenges associated with rising sea levels so that the public will be more engaged when it comes time to develop potentially costly and difficult solutions.

The project cost around $50,000 with the city of Santa Monica paying for the bulk of it. It is free and will be operating through December.