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News Briefs

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Louisiana's Rate of Coastal-Wetland Loss Continues to Slow Louisiana’s Rate of Coastal-Wetland Loss Continues to Slow

July 12—Louisiana has been losing coastal wetlands since at least the 1930s, but the long-term rate of land loss has slowed since its peak in the 1970s, and USGS scientists have recently found an additional slowing since 2010. “The lack of a major hurricane strike since 2008 is probably the main reason we’ve seen a decrease in the rate of land loss,” said USGS research geographer Brady Couvillion, the lead author of a new report on land-area change in coastal Louisiana. “Although ongoing government and private efforts to conserve the state’s coastal wetlands are also a contributing factor,” he added. More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/usgs-louisiana-s-rate-coastal-wetland-loss-continues-slow

Huge Landslide on California's Big Sur Coast Continues to Change Huge Landslide on California’s Big Sur Coast Continues to Change

July 11—The Mud Creek landslide on California’s Big Sur coast keeps eroding, as seen in air photos taken June 26. USGS scientists have been collecting and analyzing air photos about every two weeks, weather permitting, since the slide occurred on May 20. Maps derived from the June 26 photos show continued movement on the slide’s upper slopes and accelerating erosion at its toe. Since May 27, the 13-acre bulge of new land created by the slide has lost about 2 acres to wave erosion at its seaward edge, while material has accumulated on the beaches beside it. The latest photos also captured new roads built by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to monitor and sample the slide. More: https://marine.usgs.gov/news/archive.php#1116
USGS Maps Underwater Part of Big Sur Landslide at Mud Creek https://marine.usgs.gov/news/archive.php#1121
New Land Created by Slide on Big Sur Coast is Eroding https://marine.usgs.gov/news/archive.php#1106
USGS Maps, Measures Huge Landslide on California’s Big Sur Coast https://marine.usgs.gov/news/archive.php#1099

Lessons from a Tsunami Could Help Protect Seabirds in the Face of Rising Seas Lessons from a Tsunami Could Help Protect Seabirds in the Face of Rising Seas

June 22—In a new study, researchers evaluated the effects of sudden flooding from the Tohoku tsunami on more than 20 bird species nesting on the distant Pacific islands. The results shed light not only on how those birds weathered the dramatic rise in seas from the extreme event, but also how island wildlife may fare with the threat of rising sea levels and increased storm surges. Many seabird species have disappeared from human-populated higher islands, and their worldwide distributions are now concentrated on the low-lying islands protected as Wildlife Refuges and Marine National Monuments. “Much of our Pacific Island biodiversity is vulnerable to catastrophic flooding. Many of the birds’ eggs are in low-lying island baskets, so to speak,” said USGS ecologist Michelle Reynolds, lead researcher on the study. More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/lessons-a-tsunami-could-help-protect-seabirds-face-rising-seas

Renewed Seismic Activity at Lō‘ihi, Hawai‘i Renewed Seismic Activity at Lō‘ihi, Hawai‘i

June 22—Eagle-eyed web surfers have noticed recent increases in earthquake activity at the underwater volcano Lō‘ihi. Although we have no seismic stations near Lō‘ihi, which is centered 40 kilometers (24 miles) southeast of Pāhala in Hawaiʻi County’s Ka‘ū District, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) has been tracking earthquake activity there from land-based seismic stations for over 50 years. Indeed, since the end of February 2017, HVO seismic analysts have noted a slight uptick in the numbers of earthquakes near Lō‘ihi. From January 2015 through February 2017, there was, on average, one located Lō‘ihi earthquake per month. Since then, the rate of earthquakes has gradually increased. This month alone (as of June 22), there have been 51 located earthquakes in the Lō‘ihi region. More: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/hvo/hvo_volcano_watch.html?vwid=1202
Magnitude 4.5 Earthquake Southeast of Hawaiian Ocean View, Hawai‘i https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/hvo/press_releases.html?prid=132

USGS Publishes a New Blueprint That Can Help Make Subduction-Zone Areas More Resilient USGS Publishes a New Blueprint That Can Help Make Subduction-Zone Areas More Resilient

June 21—Creeping along at speeds undetectable to you and me, Earth’s massive tectonic plates are continually on the move, and nowhere is our home planet more geologically active than where these plates converge. For example, the states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, northern California, the commonwealths of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the territories of American Samoa and Guam are all situated where two tectonic plates collide, putting them at risk from the world’s largest earthquakes, powerful tsunamis, explosive volcanoes, and massive landslides on land and offshore. Scientifically speaking, these areas are called “subduction zones.” The USGS has developed a blueprint for advancing science and resilience from subduction-zone hazards. “To be most effective, this blueprint must be executed in collaboration with researchers from universities, other government agencies, and private industry,” said Joan Gomberg, a USGS Research Geophysicist. More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/usgs-publishes-a-new-blueprint-can-help-make-subduction-zone-areas-more-resilient

NOAA, USGS, and Partners Predict Third Largest Gulf of Mexico Summer ‘Dead Zone’ Ever NOAA, USGS, and Partners Predict Third Largest Gulf of Mexico Summer ‘Dead Zone’ Ever

June 20—Federal scientists forecast that this summer’s (2017) Gulf of Mexico dead zone—an area of low-to-no oxygen that can kill fish and other marine life—will be approximately 8,185 square miles, or about the size of New Jersey. This would be the third largest dead zone recorded since monitoring began 32 years ago—the average Gulf dead zone since then has been 5,309 square miles. The Gulf’s hypoxic (low-oxygen) and anoxic (oxygen-free) zones are caused by excess nutrient pollution, primarily from human activities such as agriculture and wastewater. The excess nutrients stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then sinks and decomposes in the water. The resulting low-oxygen levels are insufficient to support most marine life and habitats in near-bottom waters, threatening the Gulf’s fisheries. More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/noaa-usgs-and-partners-predict-third-largest-gulf-mexico-summer-dead-zone-ever?qt-news_science_products=3#qt-news_science_products

Preparing for the Storm: Predicting Where Our Coasts are at Risk Preparing for the Storm: Predicting Where Our Coasts are at Risk

June 19—Living in North Carolina’s Outer Banks means living with the power of the sea. In April 2016, another nor’easter was set to strike, but this time, Dare County officials were approached by their local weather forecaster with a new kind of prediction. “It was relatively new, so it didn’t really grab our attention at first,” said Drew Pearson, Dare County’s Emergency Management Director, of the technology used by Rich Bandy, of the National Weather Service. But Bandy’s prediction—that the ocean would “overwash” the dunes in Kitty Hawk, N.C.—turned out to be true. What Bandy needed was a model that accounted for waves breaking on the beach, for the shifting shape of the Outer Banks’ beaches and dunes, and how and where the interaction could cause coastal erosion. “That’s information the USGS can provide,” said Hilary Stockdon, project lead for the USGS National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards. More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/preparing-storm-predicting-where-our-coasts-are-risk

NOAA, USGS And Partners Predict Larger Summer ‘Dead Zone’ for the Chesapeake Bay NOAA, USGS And Partners Predict Larger Summer ‘Dead Zone’ for the Chesapeake Bay

June 14—Scientists expect this year’s summer Chesapeake Bay hypoxic or dead zone—an area of low-to-no oxygen that can kill fish and aquatic life—will be larger than average, approximately 1.89 cubic miles, or nearly the volume of 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools. Measurements for the Bay’s dead zone go back to 1950, and the 30-year mean maximum dead-zone volume is 1.74 cubic miles. Above-average nutrient loading from the Susquehanna River this spring accounts for the overall slightly larger-than-average predicted size of the anoxic portion. “The USGS supports this forecast by calculating nutrient loads based on its streamflow gauges and water-quality sampling sites,” said Don Cline, associate director for the USGS Water Mission Area. More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/noaa-usgs-and-partners-predict-larger-summer-dead-zone-chesapeake-bay

Water is Life for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Water is Life for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community

June 12—For the Swinomish people of northwestern Washington, water is life. The Tribe has lived within the Skagit River Delta of Puget Sound for centuries, fishing the region’s brackish waters for food and maintaining their homes along the shoreline while also working to keep them clean and healthy. For a decade, USGS geologist Eric Grossman has worked with the Swinomish Tribe and others in the Puget Sound region to better understand coastal processes and drivers of change. “Much attention has been paid to the effects of rising waters across open-coast beaches and islands,” Grossman said, “but less research has been conducted in coastal bays like Puget Sound.” With support from the EPA, the USGS began developing the Puget Sound Coastal Storm Modeling System. The model is used to forecast sea-level changes and coastal impacts in real time. More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/water-life-swinomish-indian-tribal-community

The Fire Island Wilderness Breach: Help or Hindrance? The Fire Island Wilderness Breach: Help or Hindrance?

June 9—When Hurricane Sandy struck the south shore of Long Island, New York, on October 29, 2012, it caused substantial erosion of the beach and dunes. Storm waves cut through Fire Island National Seashore’s wilderness area, forming a breach. The resulting channel allowed water to flow between the Atlantic Ocean and Great South Bay. Within days of Hurricane Sandy, the National Park Service started collecting data in collaboration with the USGS and other research organizations to understand the state of the breach. “We’ve run simulations of Hurricane Sandy to determine if the Great South Bay would experience flooding with or without the wilderness breach,” said Bill Schwab, a USGS marine geologist who researched the impact of Sandy on the barrier-island system. More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/fire-island-wilderness-breach-help-or-hindrance

USGS Bridging Generations with WWII Technology USGS Bridging Generations with WWII Technology

June 6—On June 6, 1944, thousands of men rained down from the skies onto the battlegrounds of Normandy. After five grueling years of war that shook the globe, D-Day’s victory swept the Allied nations into a wave of celebration. Generations later, D-Day is still commemorated, honoring the brave soldiers who shaped history. LaRue ‘Tex’ Wells, a retired U.S. Geological Survey fisheries scientist, watched D-Day unfold from a bird’s eye view as a pilot dropping paratroopers over the battlefield. While Tex was flying through the skies, a device known as a bathythermograph, or BT, was plummeting beneath the sea surface, monitoring temperature and depth to keep U.S. Navy submarines out of enemy sonar range. Nine years later, on a research vessel on Lake Superior, Tex used the very same bathythermograph technology to conduct scientific research. “Originally collecting bathythermograph data wasn’t part of any study—it was just something we did,” said Tex. For more information: https://www.usgs.gov/news/usgs-bridging-generations-wwii-technology

Increased Sea-Ice Drift Puts Polar Bears on Faster-Moving Treadmill Increased Sea-Ice Drift Puts Polar Bears on Faster-Moving Treadmill

June 6—A new study led by the USGS and the University of Wyoming found that increased westward ice drift in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas requires polar bears to expend more energy walking eastward on a faster-moving “treadmill” of sea ice. These findings represent the first assessment of the consequences of changing drift rates for polar bears; one of several previously unexplored effects of sea-ice loss. “Increased sea-ice drift rates likely exacerbate the physiological stress due to reduced foraging opportunity already experienced by many polar bears in the warming Arctic,” said George Durner, research ecologist with the USGS and lead author of the report, “adding yet another ‘straw to the camel’s back.’” The results were derived from radio-tracking data of collared adult female polar bears in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas coupled with sea-ice drift data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. For more information: https://www.usgs.gov/news/increased-sea-ice-drift-puts-polar-bears-faster-moving-treadmill

Scientists Discover New Species of Fijian Iguana Scientists Discover New Species of Fijian Iguana

June 6—Researchers from the USGS, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, The National Trust of Fiji, and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti have discovered a new species of banded iguana. The new species of lizard, Brachylophus gau, is one of only four living species of South Pacific iguana, and is restricted to the island of Gau, Republic of Fiji. The Gau iguana is noticeably different from its peers in physical appearance. It has unique color patterning, including green throats on both males and females, whereas males of other iguana species never have solid green throats. “These types of discoveries continue to surprise us in Fiji, where we are showing a much richer reptile fauna than was previously known to exist,” said Robert Fisher, research biologist with the USGS and lead author of the study. For more information: https://www.usgs.gov/news/scientists-discover-new-species-fijian-iguana

Mapping Chesapeake Bay's Future from Today's Land Use Mapping Chesapeake Bay’s Future from Today’s Land Use

May 25—The 64,000-square-mile watershed of the Chesapeake Bay, America’s largest estuary, is a lattice of riparian forests, swamps, marshes, about 15 major rivers and streams, and more than 100,000 smaller tributaries. These waters carry the natural nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, sediments, and organic matter into the brackish bay, where they once fed astounding schools of fish, shellfish, and waterfowl. Today, there is evidence that the bay is more resilient than it has been in a generation. About a dozen key indicators are positive, said Scott Phillips, the USGS Chesapeake Bay coordinator. “Picture a team of doctors treating a patient with many ailments,” said Phillips. “We’re making progress on some ailments, but others may take much longer to resolve, and there are complications.” For more information: https://www.usgs.gov/news/mapping-chesapeakes-future-todays-land-use

Video Cameras Provide Low-Cost Way to Study Processes That Shape Beaches Video Cameras Provide Low-Cost Way to Study Processes That Shape Beaches

May 19—Sea-level rise and climate change could shrink beaches, which are valued for recreation and protection against storm waves. To learn more about processes affecting beaches, Shawn Harrison and Gerry Hatcher of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center installed two video cameras atop a Santa Cruz, California, hotel overlooking northern Monterey Bay. Every half hour, the cameras shoot video of the beach and ocean for 10 minutes. Using specialized software, Harrison extracts data about shoreline position, sandbar migration, rip-channel formation, wave run-up on the beach, alongshore current, nearshore bathymetry, and more. The information will improve simulations of shoreline change that communities can use to plan for the future. Eventually, the USGS will install similar systems in more remote locations. For more information: https://marine.usgs.gov/news/archive.php#1092

More Headlines

Connection Between Two Earthquake Faults in the San Francisco Bay Area Highlighted in Radio and TV Interviews - July 14

Scientists Publish Data Release of Lidar-Derived Beach Morphology Covering the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Coastlines - July 13

Front-Page News: USGS Analyzing Mud Samples to Shed Light on San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake Hazards - July 7

USGS Scientists to Track Effects of Historic Lake Ontario Flooding - July 7

USGS Scientist Discusses Deep-Ocean Mineral Resources in Newspaper and Radio Interviews - June 29

USGS Scientist Interviewed for KQED Podcast, “What Would Really Happen If a Tsunami Hit the Bay Area?,” - June 26

Lake Harvests are Likely More Fruitful than We Knew- June 26

Reptile Skin, Grown in Lab for First Time, Helps Study Endangered-Turtle Disease - June 26

Satellite Imagery Can Track Harmful Algal Blooms - June 19

Global Tsunami Science: Past and Future - June 13

USGS Scientists Continue Investigations into the History of Coral Reef Development in Dry Tortugas National Park - May 25

USGS Researchers Meet with Fire Island National Seashore Management to Continue Collaborative Project on Beach-Recovery Forecasting - May 18

USGS Scientist Featured in Women-In-Science Outreach Video - May 12

For all USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program news, see: https://marine.usgs.gov/news/.

For all USGS news, see: https://www.usgs.gov/news.

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in this issue:

Cover Story
Coastal Flooding Could Double in Decades

News Briefs
News Briefs

Field Work
Recent Fieldwork

Massachusetts Senate Visits Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Richard Signell Receives the CDI Leadership and Innovation Award

Cassandra Ladino Receives CDI Leadership and Innovation Award

Staff amd Center News
Jenna Hill Joins the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

Comprehensive Geologic Mapping of Delmarva’s Inner Continental Shelf

June/July Publications

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

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