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Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

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Center News, May 2015

From the USGS Newsroom: New Maps Reveal Seafloor off San Francisco Area

Seafloor character map offshore of San Francisco and Vicinity.

“Seafloor character” map of the San Francisco Region.
[high resolution image 1 MB]

Released: 5/21/2015 2:00:00 PM

"Three new sets of maps detail the offshore bathymetry, habitats, geology and submarine environment of the seafloor off the coast of San Francisco, Drakes Bay, and Tomales Point. Critical for resource managers, the maps are part of the California Seafloor and Coastal Mapping Program, a series of maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey with support from the California Ocean Protection Council, NOAA, and 15 other state and federal partners. The maps are designed to be used by a large stakeholder community and the public to manage and understand California’s vast and valuable marine resources."

Scientific Portrait of the Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History

Aerial photograph of the Elwha River mouth during dam removal, showing the expansion of the river mouth delta by sediment deposition; photo by Neal and Linda Chism, volunteers with LightHawk.

Aerial photograph of the Elwha River mouth on the 27th of September, 2013, during dam removal, showing the expansion of the river mouth delta by sediment deposition. Photo courtesy of Neal and Linda Chism, volunteers with LightHawk.

The effects of dam removal are better known as a result of several new studies released in February 2015 by government, tribal, and university researchers. The scientists worked together to examine and report the effects of removing two large dams from the Elwha River in Washington State, the largest dam-removal project in U.S. history. New findings suggest that dam removal can change landscape features of river and coasts, affecting ecosystems downstream of former dam sites.

“These studies not only give us a better understanding of the effects of dam removal, but show the importance of collaborative science across disciplines and institutions,” said Suzette Kimball, Acting Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Read the entire article in the Sound Waves newsletter.

California Seafloor Mapping Program Reaches Milestone

Map of Santa Barbara Channel region, showing locations of six California Seafloor Mapping Program map sets (rectangles) and the outer boundary of Californias State Waters (squiggly line).

Santa Barbara Channel region, showing locations of six California Seafloor Mapping Program map sets (rectangles) and the outer boundary of California’s State Waters (squiggly line following the coastline).

The California Seafloor Mapping Program (CSMP) has released its latest set of maps and data, “California State Waters Map Series—Offshore of Refugio Beach, California,” U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3319. The “Offshore of Refugio Beach” maps lie within the western Santa Barbara Channel in southern California, and their publication marks a CSMP milestone: the first phase of map and geospatial data publications, comprising six USGS Scientific Investigations Maps and associated data files centered on the Santa Barbara Channel, is now complete. The maps are part of an ambitious collaborative effort to develop comprehensive bathymetric (seafloor depth), habitat, and geologic maps for all of California’s State Waters, which extend from the shoreline to 5.56 kilometers (3 nautical miles) offshore. These State Waters maps provide many types of information with a large range of applications.

Read the entire article in the Sound Waves newsletter.

Future Wave and Wind Effects on Pacific Islands—Projections Will Assist Planning for Climate Change

Aerial photograph of waves breaking on the fringing reef off Ennuebing Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Aerial photograph of waves breaking on the fringing reef off Ennuebing Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands.

According to a report released in January 2015 by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), climate changes during the 21st century are expected to alter the highest waves and strongest winds across U.S. and U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands.

“With little to no publicly available historical wind and wave data for most of the U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands, and no future projections of waves and winds for different climate scenarios, there was a great science and management need to understand how waves and wind might change in future climates,” said Curt Storlazzi, USGS oceanographer and lead author of the study.

Read the entire article in the Sound Waves newsletter.

Dive In! Explore Thousands of Coastal and Seafloor Images along U.S. Coasts

Photograph of boulders and biota off San Gregorio, California, in water approximately 30 meters (100 feet) deep.

Boulders and biota off San Gregorio, California, in water approximately 30 meters (100 feet) deep. Organisms include bat stars, small sea anemones, strawberry anemone, cup corals, and frilly sea cucumbers. Two green laser dots are 15 centimeters (6 inches) apart; lefthand dot is at bottom center of photograph, righthand dot is on upper right edge of lowermost frilly sea cucumber.

Thousands of photographs and videos of the seafloor and coastline—most areas never seen before—are now easily accessible online. This imagery, available through the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Video and Photograph Portal, will help coastal managers to make important decisions, ranging from protecting habitats to understanding hazards and managing land use.

“The USGS has been dedicated to developing a system that allows for convenient communication internally as well as to outside collaborators and the public. We want a wide range of users to be able to access our abundance of coastal and seafloor imagery,” said USGS geographer Nadine Golden, lead principal investigator for the USGS portal. “The portal makes it easy for users to discover, obtain, and disseminate information.”

Read the entire article in the Sound Waves newsletter.

Undamming Washington’s Elwha River—Public Lecture on Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History

Before dam removal, Amy East (then Amy Draut) surveys along the Elwha River in March 2007. USGS photograph by Joshua Logan.

Before dam removal, Amy East (then Amy Draut) surveys along the Elwha River in March 2007. USGS photograph by Joshua Logan.

The largest dam removal in U.S. history was the subject of a public lecture by USGS research geologist Amy East on February 26, 2015, at the USGS campus in Menlo Park, California. East described changes to the landscape caused by the removal of two large dams—the 32-meter-tall Elwha Dam and the 64-meter-tall Glines Canyon Dam—from the Elwha River in Washington State. This was the largest dam removal ever undertaken, both in terms of the dams’ heights and in terms of how much sediment had accumulated behind them.

Read the entire article in the Sound Waves newsletter.

 

Center News, April 2015

Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair award winners Lily, left, and Sarah, right, Jenkins, of Molokai High School. Photograph by Mahealani Bambico; used with permission.

Hawaiʻi State Science and Engineering Fair award winners Lily (left) and Sarah (right) Jenkins, of Molokaʻi High School. Photograph by Mahealani Bambico; used with permission. [Larger version]

USGS Scientist Among Mentors of Hawaiʻi Science Fair Stars

Susan Cochran of PCMSC provided mentoring help to two sisters on Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi, for a science-fair project that won top awards at the Hawaiʻi State Science and Engineering Fair and earned them a spot at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 2015. Molokaʻi High School students Lily and Sarah Jenkins researched the destructive effects of mangroves, an introduced species that could threaten coral reefs on Molokaʻi’s south shore, where USGS has conducted extensive studies. Their “March of the Molokai Mangrove” project included geographic information system (GIS) analysis of aerial imagery, historical maps, and coastal surveys to measure how fast mangroves are migrating seaward. Cochran supplied the students with published aerial and seafloor imagery, bathymetric and topographic data, directions to additional materials, and GIS tips. For more information, contact Susan Cochran, scochran@usgs.gov, 831-460-7545.

Aerial photograph of waves breaking on the fringing reef off Ennuebing Island.

Aerial photograph of waves breaking on the fringing reef off Ennuebing Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands.

USGS Scientist Briefs House Natural Resources Committee on How Future Waves and Winds Will Affect U.S. and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands

Democratic staff from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Natural Resources requested a briefing in March on how waves and winds around U.S. and U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands will change in the 21st century and how these changes will affect infrastructure, renewable energy, ecosystems, shipping, and recreation. The request was prompted by a recent USGS report, “Future Wave and Wind Projections”, that details how waves and winds will change under different climate-change scenarios. The report’s lead author, USGS research geologist Curt Storlazzi, gave the briefing by telephone on March 12, 2015, from the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California. For more information, contact Curt Storlazzi, cstorlazzi@usgs.gov, 831-460-7521.

Center News, March 2015

Photo of the seafloor with anenome and sea star on boulders and rock.

Rounded to subrounded boulders and rugose rock (water depth, 30 m). Abiotic complexity is high, biotic complexity is absent, and biocover is high. Biocover includes bat star; sea anemone; strawberry anemone, cup corals; and frilly sea cucumbers. [Larger version]

Coastal Video and Photograph Portal on Front Page of California Newspaper Santa Cruz Sentinel

USGS geographer Nadine Golden was interviewed on March 23, 2015, by Santa Cruz Sentinel reporter Samantha Clark about the newly released USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Video and Photograph Portal (http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=4156). Clark’s article was published online on March 23 and on the front page of the print edition on March 24. The portal contains thousands of photographs and videos of seabed and coastline along the nation’s Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific shores. It allows anyone to explore never-before-seen areas; it helps coastal managers and scientists study seafloor composition and habitats and better understand coastal hazards. Puget Sound, Hawaii, and the Arctic will eventually be represented. Additional video and photographs, including archived imagery, will be added as they become available. For more information, visit the portal (http://dx.doi.org/10.5066/F7JH3J7N) or contact Nadine Golden, ngolden@usgs.gov, 831-460-7530.

Screen shots from the new video and photo portal.Newly Released Database of Coastal and Seafloor Imagery Draws Media Attention

LA Times science writer Sean Greene interviewed USGS geographer Nadine Golden on March 18, 2015, about the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Video and Photograph Portal released that day (http://dx.doi.org/10.5066/F7JH3J7N). The portal makes thousands of photos and videos of the seafloor and coastline (most areas never seen before) available and easily accessible online. This database is the largest of its kind, providing detailed and fine-scale representations of the coast. New video and photographs will be added as they are collected, and archived imagery will also be incorporated over time. The database will help coastal managers to make important decisions, ranging from protecting habitats to understanding hazards and managing land use. Greenes piece on the portal appeared in the LA Times online Science section (http://touch.latimes.com/#section/621/article/p2p-83101019/) on March 20. For more information, contact Nadine Golden, ngolden@usgs.gov, 831-460-7530.

 

Potential influence of sea-level rise on storm flooding in Del Mar, California, as calculated by the Coastal Storm Modeling System.

Potential influence of sea-level rise on storm flooding in Del Mar, California (about 20 miles north of San Diego), as calculated by the Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS). Blue shows the ocean surface during a large storm that struck the area in January 2010, with flooding most evident in the trapezoidal area around the mouth of the San Dieguito River. Orange shows the extent of flooding calculated by CoSMoS for an identical storm after sea-level rise of 0.5 meter (an upper-range projection for the year 2050); red shows additional storm flooding after sea-level rise of 1.4 meters (an upper-range projection for 2100). USGS figure by Patrick Barnard. [Larger version]

Geologist Addresses Government Group on Assessing Coastal Climate-Change Impacts in San Diego Region

On March 5, 2015, USGS coastal geologist Patrick Barnard gave an invited presentation to San Diego area government officials and coastal managers from the Shoreline Preservation Working Group of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) on climate-change impacts that could affect their planning for the region. Barnard introduced the group to the Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS), a numerical modeling system developed by the USGS and Netherlands-based research institute Deltares to predict coastal flooding caused by both sea-level rise and storms driven by climate change. CoSMoS was developed to provide coastal planners and emergency responders with critical storm-hazard information that they can use to increase public safety, mitigate physical damage, and more effectively manage and allocate resources within complex coastal settings. For more information, contact Patrick Barnard, pbarnard@usgs.gov, 831-460-7556.

Tim Elfers using an echosounder and GPS receiver mounted on a personal watercraft to survey the seafloor just off the beach near the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Tim Elfers using an echosounder and GPS receiver mounted on a personal watercraft to survey the seafloor just off the beach near the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Most of the personal watercraft transects ran perpendicular to the shore, with the transect’s shoreward end as close to the beach as possible to tie into the beach surveys. USGS photograph by Andrew Stevens.

Climate Check in our Santa Cruz Backyard

Winter storms modified by future climate changes, including sea-level rise, could mean costly damage to harbors, beaches, and businesses, especially during El Niño years, when atmospheric conditions bring heavy rains to the central California coast. The biggest storms tend to hit later in the year when beaches have already been heavily battered. In a populated area that relies on its coastline for much of its revenue—from people such as surfers, beach goers, sailors, kite surfers, divers, and fisherman—there is a great need to understand how big storms can shape and affect the coast. Perhaps storms will alter an important snowy plover habitat, shift a surf break, or erode natural beach protection for waterfront businesses such as those in Capitola. USGS scientists in Santa Cruz have a rare opportunity to work on these issues close to home and collect data that can affect a range of people and businesses within the Monterey Bay region. Studying these changes now will help researchers create models of future climatic changes that will erode and shape our coasts—a valuable tool for city planners, conservationists, and the tourism industry.

Read more about this new study.

 

USGS researcher Curt Storlazzi discusses how 150 years of pineapple cultivation has affected the nearshore environment around Kahana, Maui, Hawaii.

USGS researcher Curt Storlazzi discusses how 150 years of pineapple cultivation has affected the nearshore environment around Kahana, Maui, Hawaiʻi.

USGS Leads Field Trip for Attendees at U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting

During the fall 2014 meeting of the United States Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF), held in Kāʻanapali, Maui, Hawaiʻi, Curt Storlazzi of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center led a field trip along the west Maui coast to address the science behind the “Past, Present, and Hopefully Future of Maui’s Coral Reefs.” The goal of the field trip was to provide participants with an overview of more than 15 years of integrated scientific investigations by federal, state, academic, and non-governmental organization (NGO) scientists to identify land-based sources of pollution from the Wahikuli and Honokōwai watersheds and document the resulting impact on the adjacent fringing coral reefs.

Read more in the latest edition of Sound Waves.

 

USGS researcher Curt Storlazzi discusses how 150 years of pineapple cultivation has affected the nearshore environment around Kahana, Maui, Hawaii.

Excerpt from sheet 1 of USGS Open-File Report 20141214 produced by the California Seafloor and Coastal Mapping Program. This view shows color shaded-relief bathymetry (seafloor depth) offshore of Half Moon Bay, California, approximately 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of San Francisco.

Workshops on the California Seafloor and Coastal Mapping Program

These workshops gave the large CSCMP team an opportunity to update participants on all that they have accomplished and to receive input that will help them plan future efforts. CSCMP scientists are currently publishing a comprehensive geologic and habitat base-map series for all of California’s State waters (from the shore out 3 nautical miles), and they are seeking feedback on how the program should go forward to best fit diverse scientific and stakeholder needs.

Read more in the latest edition of Sound Waves.

Center News, February 2015

Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History Characterized

Aerial photograph of the Elwha River mouth.

During the first 2 years of dam removal on the Elwha River, approximately 2.4 million cubic meters of sediment was added to the river mouth delta, expanding it seaward by hundreds of meters. Photograph by Neal and Linda Chism, volunteers with LightHawk (http://www.lighthawk.org/). [Larger version]

Dam removal has become an important management and restoration tool. The largest dam-removal project in U.S. history, on the Elwha River in Washington State, is the focus of federal, tribal, and academic scientists collaborating to characterize its effects. Five papers resulting from this work have been published in the journal Geomorphology. They provide detailed observations about changes in the river’s landforms, waters, and coastal zone during the first 2 years of dam removal, when massive amounts of sediment were eroded from the former reservoirs and transported downstream through the river and to the coast. In addition to restoring salmon runs, the dam removal is renewing the downstream movement of sand, gravel, and wood, which are important to river, estuarine, and coastal habitats.

Links to and titles of the new papers on “Large-scale dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington, USA”:

For more information, contact Jonathan Warrick, jwarrick@usgs.gov, 831-460-7569. Also, read the USGS Newsroom Release from February 18, 2015.

 

Public Lecture on Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History

Photograph of Amy with Josh Logan, working on the Elwha River.

Amy East (left) and Josh Logan used a lidar (light detection and ranging) scanner to collect elevation data along the lower Elwha River, Washington, just before dam removal began in September 2011. These data were compared with data collected after dam removal to document effects on the shape of the river.

Dam removal has become an important management and restoration tool. The largest dam-removal project in U.S. history, on the Elwha River in Washington State, is the focus of federal, tribal, and academic scientists collaborating to characterize its effects. USGS research geologist Amy East presented a public lecture on the Elwha project on February 26, 2015 at the USGS center in Menlo Park, California. She described what happened as the gradual removal of two dams released massive amounts of sediment downstream, causing changes in the river’s landforms, waters, and coastal zone. In addition to restoring salmon runs, the dam removal is affecting river, estuarine, and coastal habitats and providing important lessons for future river-restoration endeavors. For more information, and to watch the video of Amy's talk, visit the USGS Evening Public Lecture Series website: http://online.wr.usgs.gov/calendar/ — or contact Amy East, aeast@usgs.gov, 831-460-7533.

Center News, January 2015

USGS Marine Geology Paper Among Most Cited

Oblique aerial photograph showing a storm-deposited gravel ridge complex near the shore and an inland field of tsunami-deposited gravel, mostly boulder size, on the southeast coast of the island of Hawaii. Arrows point to individual large boulders.

Oblique aerial photograph showing a storm-deposited gravel ridge complex near the shore and an inland field of tsunami-deposited gravel (mostly boulder size) on the southeast coast of the island of Hawaiʻi. Arrows point to individual large boulders. [Larger version]

The editors of Marine Geology sent Bruce Richmond a certificate in January 2015 recognizing his paper “Recent storm and tsunami coarse-clast deposit characteristics, Southeast Hawaii” (Richmond and others, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2010.08.001) as one of the journal’s three most-cited papers published in 2011 and cited in 2012-2013. Richmond and USGS colleague Bruce Jaffe were coauthors on a second paper among the three most-cited: “New insights of tsunami hazard from the 2011 Tohoku-oki event” (Kazuhisa Goto and others, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2011.10.004). Richmond’s paper resolved a controversy by showing the distinction between coarse-clast deposits formed by storms (mostly ridges) and those formed by tsunamis (mostly fields of isolated clasts). The Goto paper was one of the first to describe deposits from the devastating 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami in Japan and presented data suggesting that previous estimates of paleotsunamis in the region have been underestimated. For more information, contact Bruce Richmond, brichmond@usgs.gov, 831-460-7531.

 

USGS Virtual “Flight” Over San Francisco Bay Floor Featured by Sailing Magazine

Screenshot from USGS video titled, Fly Over the Seafloor of San Francisco Bay.

Screenshot from USGS video “Fly Over the Seafloor of San Francisco Bay” at http://gallery.usgs.gov/videos/536.

A USGS video that takes viewers on a virtual “flight” over the floor of San Francisco Bay was featured in January 2015 on the website of Latitude 38, a sailing and marine magazine*. Peter Dartnell of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center created the video from bathymetric data collected by the USGS, NOAA, and California State University, Monterey Bay. Published on the USGS website in 2009 (http://gallery.usgs.gov/videos/536), the video continues to attract and educate viewers. For more information, contact Peter Dartnell, pdartnell@usgs.gov, 831-460-7415.

*The January 2015 issue of Latitude 38 can be found at: http://www.latitude38.com/lectronic/lectronicday.lasso?date=2015-01-12

 

Future Wave and Wind Effects on Pacific Islands

Map showing the locations of the 25 modeled points within the tropical Pacific Ocean used in this study.

Map showing the locations of the 25 modeled points within the tropical Pacific Ocean used in this study. [Larger version]

According to a new USGS report, climate changes during the 21st century are expected to alter the highest waves and strongest winds across U.S. and U.S.-affiliated islands in the Pacific Ocean. Wave and wind processes drive flooding of coastal land, potentially damaging islands’ infrastructure, fresh-water supplies, and natural resources, and harming federally protected species such as nesting seabirds. Scientists from USGS and the University of California, Santa Cruz, used computer models to look at how climate change will affect wave heights, periods, and directions, and wind speed and direction. Their detailed calculations will be useful for managers developing coastal resilience plans or ecosystem restoration efforts, and for engineers designing future infrastructure. This research was supported by the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative (http://piccc.net/). USGS Open-File Report 2015-1001 is posted at http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151001. For more information, contact Curt Storlazzi, cstorlazzi@usgs.gov, 831-460-7521.

 

Center News, December 2014

VIPs Learn about Climate Change Impacts along San Francisco’s Outer Coast

Photo of Patrick, Mayor Ed Lee, Secretary Jewel, and others above Ocean Beach, San Francisco.

USGS research geologist Patrick Barnard, far left, leads VIPs on a field trip on the cliffs above Ocean Beach, San Francisco. Standing, left to right beside Patrick and in the foreground, are San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, New York Times reporter Ken Chang, and Acting USGS Director Suzette Kimball. Ocean Beach's narrow stretch of coast is exposed to the brunt of the North Pacific Ocean wave climate. Photo courtesy of Tami Heilemann. [Larger version]

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Acting USGS Director Suzette Kimball, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee took part in a coastal climate change field trip led by USGS research geologist Patrick Barnard on December 18, 2014. The field trip visited two beaches along the outer coast of the San Francisco Peninsula that are within the most rapidly eroding stretch of California’s coast. Erosion is currently driven primarily by human influences on sand supply, but projected climate-change impacts, including sea-level rise and extreme storms, will increase the vulnerability of this urbanized coast to beach erosion, cliff failures, and coastal flooding, posing threats to private and public infrastructure, including a state highway and a $1.2-billion wastewater-treatment plant. The USGS has been active in understanding the various coastal processes that control this important section of coastline. For more information, contact Patrick Barnard, pbarnard@usgs.gov, 831-460-7556.

See more photographs from the field trip.

Learn more about the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center's climate change studies.

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