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Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center


Center News, February 2016

3-D perspective view of shaded relief abthymetry offshore Chenega village.

3-D perspective view of shaded relief bathymetry offshore Chenega village. Shaded patches of seafloor depict areas that experienced dramatic changes in water depth between 1957 and 2014. Read more in the USGS Newsroom.

From the USGS Newsroom: 50-Year-Old Mystery Solved: Seafloor Mapping Reveals Cause of 1964 Tsunami that Destroyed Alaskan Village

Minutes after the 1964 magnitude-9.2 Great Alaska Earthquake began shaking, a series of tsunami waves swept through the village of Chenega in Prince William Sound, destroying all but two of the buildings and killing 23 of the 75 inhabitants. Fifty years later, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey revealed the likely cause of the tsunami, a large set of underwater landslides. The scientists used detailed seafloor images not only clear up a decades-old mystery, but also underscore the tsunami hazard that submarine landslides can pose in fjords around the world where communities and ports are commonly located.

Read the entire News Release from February 1, 2016.


Center News, January 2016

Elwha River mouth survey to document changes after dam removal

Photograph of USGS research vessel Snavely and a USGS scientist operating a PWC equipped with echosounders to map the nearshore.

USGS research vessel Parke Snavely and USGS scientist operating a personal watercraft equipped with echosounders used for mapping the nearshore region. [Larger version]

Scientists from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center plan to survey the mouth, beach, and nearby seafloor of the Elwha River in Washington, February 15–19, 2016. The survey will continue to document changes triggered by the 2011–2014 removal of two large dams upstream. Scientists on the research vessel Parke Snavely will map the seafloor using swath sonar. Others, on smaller vessels, will map close to shore and about 1 kilometer up the river using echosounders. Scientists onshore will survey the beach using backpack GPS receivers. A crew on the research vessel Frontier will collect sediment samples to measure grain-size. Similar surveys, conducted regularly since 2004, recorded major changes to the area.

Visit the web page USGS Science to Support the Elwha River Restoration Project.

For more information, contact
Jon Warrick,, 831-460-7569, or
Andrew Stevens,, 831-460-7424.

Photograph of Ocean Beach showing storm damage during the 2009-2010 El Nino.

Severe coastal bluff erosion, along the southern end of Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California. This storm damage occurred during the 2009-2010 El Niņo, which, on average, eroded the shoreline 55 meters that winter. Photo taken on January 20, 2010 by Jeff Hansen, USGS.

USGS Science for an El Niño Winter

USGS Top Story, January 21, 2016

Although the U.S. Geological Survey doesn’t directly study or forecast the weather (our sister agency, NOAA, and its National Weather Service do), the USGS studies and documents the effects and impacts of long-term climate changes and weather phenomena across the U.S. and globally. In particular, the USGS monitors streamflow, floods, landslides, erosion, sea-level rise, and many other earth processes that affect communities and that are often affected by El Niño weather patterns. USGS closely monitors these effects to assist the NWS in its responsibilities for hazard warnings and to assist communities across the country in their preparation, response, and recovery activities.

Learn more about USGS El Niño studies in this article featured as a Top Story in the USGS Newsroom.

Clip from the interview with Dan Hoover, showing a close-up of the coastal bluff in Pacifica, CA.USGS oceanographer in KRON4-TV story about possible beach-cliff erosion from El Niño storms in San Francisco, California

USGS oceanographer Dan Hoover (Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center) was interviewed by Charles Clifford of KRON4-TV for a story about coastal-cliff erosion that could occur on beaches in and near San Francisco, California, during El Niño storms this winter. Hoover met Clifford on January 12, 2016, at Mussel Rock Park in Daly City. He explained that wave energy typically increases by about 20 percent during an El Niño winter, and storm waves combined with high tides could reach the base of cliffs and cause erosion. He noted that bluffs on different beaches differ in the geology and hydrology that affect how they will fail, making them challenging to study. The interview, broadcast that night, can be viewed at:
For more information, contact Dan, 831-460-7544.

Perspective map view of the offshore of Point Lopez area of California.

Perspective view offshore of the Big Sur coast. The steep slope beside the Hosgri fault results from uplift along the fault, which is part of the strike-slip fault system that forms the boundary in California between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates.

USGS scientists to appear in February 7 TV broadcast about earthquake hazards in central California

Sam Johnson of the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center and David Schwartz and Lind Gee of the Earthquake Science Center were interviewed January 13, 2016, by KION, the CBS TV affiliate out of Salinas, California, for a program on earthquake hazards in central California. Johnson was interviewed about offshore faults and seafloor imaging. Schwartz discussed earthquake probabilities and forecasting and how a large earthquake could impact the state and the central coast. Gee described how the USGS monitors earthquakes in California. The story will air February 7 after the Super Bowl.

For more information, contact Sam Johnson,, 831-460-7546.

Photograph of USGS scientist deploying seismic equipment from the R/V Parke Snavely in San Pablo Bay, CA.

USGS scientist deploying seismic equipment from Research Vessel Parke Snavely in San Pablo Bay, CA.

Discovery of possible connection between two earthquake faults in the San Francisco Bay area featured in the San Francisco Chronicle and other newspaper, radio, and television outlets

New USGS mapping shows that two earthquake faults, the Hayward and Rodgers Creek faults, may be directly connected deep beneath San Pablo Bay, a northern extension of San Francisco Bay, California. Such a connection could increase total fault-rupture length and resultant shaking during an earthquake. USGS research geophysicist Janet Watt, who led the mapping effort, was interviewed by San Francisco Chronicle science editor David Perlman on December 15 at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, where she presented the new findings. Perlman’s article, published December 31st, led to additional interviews of Watt and her colleagues by CBS/KPIX television, KCBS radio, the Marin Independent Journal, KRON-4 television, Talk 910 AM radio, USA Radio Network News, Univision, KTSF Channel 26, the Contra Costa Times, and the San Jose Mercury News.
For more information, contact Janet Watt,, 831-460-7565. 

Photograph of the city of Nehalem, Oregon, showing a street with the internationally adopted tsunami-evacuation sign.

Internationally adopted tsunami-evacuation sign in the city of Nehalem, Oregon.

USGS to participate in national tsunami hazard workshop February 1-2, 2016

Stephanie Ross (USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center and Science Applications for Risk Reduction [SAFRR]) is the USGS coordinator for a National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) workshop, February 1-2, 2016, in Boulder, Colorado. NOAA’s NTHMP provides a customer-based, grass-roots approach to tsunami-hazard assessment and mitigation. The workshop’s goal is to improve collaboration between NTHMP and USGS to provide better tsunami-preparedness products for coastal communities. Topics include: identification and cataloging of tsunami sources (potential earthquakes and landslides); standardized tsunami sources for scenario calculations; and tsunami-vulnerability assessments. About 30 USGS participants and 30 participants from other federal agencies and tsunami-vulnerable states and territories will attend the workshop, scheduled just before the NTHMP annual meeting. Stephanie Ross and Nate Wood (USGS Western Geographic Science Center) are the USGS representatives to NTHMP.
For more information see or contact Stephanie Ross,, 650-329-5326.

Photograph of Patrick presenting the CoSMoS model projections.

Patrick Barnard presents the initial results from the new CoSMoS 3.0 model for Southern California. Photo by Holly Rindge, USC Sea Grant.

Webinar on USGS Projections of Coastal Flooding and Erosion that Could Affect Orange County During El Niño

On January 21, 2016, USGS research geologist Patrick Barnard discussed initial hazard maps that show potential flooding in the Orange County region from a 100-year storm combined with four scenarios of sea-level rise. The maps are generated by the latest version of the Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS 3.0), a USGS-led modeling system that projects coastal flooding and erosion due to both sea-level rise and storms driven by climate change. Many California agencies are using CoSMoS data to plan for coastal impacts from El Niño storms. The webinar “Sub-Regional Coastal Storm Modeling Results: Orange County” was broadcast live on January 21 and is now available as an archived recording.

For more information, visit the CoSMoS website, read more on the USC Sea Grant web page, or contact Patrick Barnard,, 831-460-7556.

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