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News Briefs

News Briefs

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PHoto of 3 people rowing a small boat over a flooded road, after Hurricane Florence caused major flooding Hurricane Florence Set At Least 28 Flood Records in Carolinas

November 13—The USGS has confirmed what many residents of the Carolinas already suspected: Hurricane Florence’s rainfalls brought with them record flooding. Preliminary data indicates that 18 USGS streamgages in North Carolina and 10 in South Carolina registered record-setting water levels, called peaks of record. Another 45 streamgages in North Carolina and four in South Carolina recorded streamflows–the volume of water moving past a fixed point—within the top five measured at those specific sites. “One thing we discovered while compiling this report was many of the new peaks of record set by Hurricane Florence broke previous records set by Hurricane Matthew in 2016,” said Toby Feaster, USGS hydrologist. “Since several of the streamgage sites we analyzed had more than 30 years of historical data associated with them, it was interesting that a majority of the number one and two records were from back-to-back flooding events.” More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/usgs-florence-set-least-28-flood-records-carolinas

Photo of non-native aquatic plant spread by Hurricanes Michael and Florence How Hurricanes Michael, Florence May Have Spread Nonnative Species

November 13—Hurricane Florence’s floodwaters and Hurricane Michael’s storm surge caused obvious devastation to natural areas, but a subtler set of harms is harder to see. Potentially destructive nonnative aquatic species, such as fast-growing plants that can choke waterways and hungry snails that can attack crops, can fan out across the landscape in the storms’ waters, spreading unseen and becoming hard to eradicate. To help land managers find and manage these flood-borne newcomers before they get established, scientists at the USGS have created preliminary online maps for each hurricane. These map sets show that more than 160 nonnative aquatic plant and animal species had the potential to spread during the 2018 hurricane season. “It’s very difficult for land managers to search all the places where flooding or storm surge occurred," said USGS fishery biologist Pam Fuller. "Our results can help them concentrate on areas where nonnative aquatic species are most likely to appear.” More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/how-hurricanes-michael-florence-may-have-spread-nonnative-species

Photo of USGS researcher surveying a beach along Monterey Bay’s northern coast Beach Surveys to Monitor Change Along Northern Monterey Bay

November 1—From October 9–15, USGS personnel surveyed beaches and the adjacent ocean floor along Monterey Bay’s northern coast. They mapped beach elevations with precision GPS units on backpacks and all-terrain vehicles, and recorded nearshore depths with personal watercraft equipped with GPS and echo sounders. Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center (PCMSC) scientists have conducted surveys between Santa Cruz and Moss Landing every fall and spring since October 2014 to study the patterns and causes of coastal change. They add targeted mapping to capture the effects of large storms. PCMSC runs regular surveys on various California shores, including recently begun mapping along southern Monterey Bay. More: https://www.usgs.gov/center-news/beach-surveys-monitor-change-along-northern-monterey-bay

Photo of a potentially toxic type of freshwater cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae Salty Water Causes Some Freshwater Harmful Algae to Release Toxins

October 18—A new USGS laboratory study of two potentially toxic types of freshwater cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, found that exposure to salty water can damage the cyanobacteria cells’ walls, causing them to release their toxins into the water. The finding suggests that understanding the mixing of fresh and salt water, which takes place in many coastal water bodies around the world, will help researchers understand the toxic effects of these harmful algal blooms. “Our findings open up the possibility that water managers may eventually be able to help reduce the algal toxins reaching coastal waters by manipulating water salinity,” said USGS biologist Barry H. Rosen, the lead author of the study. “This is especially true in places where freshwater flows are managed by a network of pumps and canals.” More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/salty-water-causes-some-freshwater-harmful-algae-release-toxins

Photos showing Before and After: Coastal Change Caused by Hurricane Michael Before and After: Coastal Change Caused by Hurricane Michael

October 18—The USGS Coastal Change Hazards Storm team is working on a detailed assessment of Hurricane Michael’s effects on Florida’s vulnerable shorelines. The team is currently comparing aerial photos taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2017 to similar NOAA photos collected a day after Hurricane Michael made landfall. The USGS scientists are analyzing the photos, which document the hurricane’s impact on the coast, to fine-tune coastal change forecasting models. “High altitude satellite images give us a big picture view of the coastline, and that’s very useful to identify large areas of overwash, but we can’t see the dunes in those images,” said Kara Doran, the team leader. “These lower-altitude oblique photos give us a clearer view of the beach and dunes. We can see what happened to the houses and roads behind the dunes.” More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/and-after-coastal-change-caused-hurricane-michael

Graphic map showing new USGS network along Gulf of Mexico coast, for fast preparations for Hurricane Michael New USGS Network Leads to Fast Preparations for Hurricane Michael

October 10—As Hurricane Michael rapidly approached the Florida coastline, USGS scientists used a new bracket network along the Gulf Coast to quickly install more than 30 storm-tide sensors that will provide important information about the storm’s effects. This was the first time the USGS used the Gulf of Mexico predefined network of pre-positioned storm-tide sensor receiving brackets, which was intended for just such a purpose: to quickly deploy scientific instruments in advance of a major hurricane or coastal storm. The network consists of more than 130 pre-surveyed receiving brackets installed along the coast from Texas to the Florida Keys. “This new network allows the USGS to collect important information about how storm tides affect coastal communities and deliver this data to emergency managers and responders faster than we could before,” said Athena Clark, USGS Coastal Storm Response Team leader.  More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/new-usgs-network-leads-fast-preparations-hurricane-michael

Photo of a USGS crew working to capture evidence of devastating Carolina floods USGS Crews Work Fast to Capture Evidence of Devastating Carolina Floods

October 3—The floodwaters that covered wide swaths of the Carolinas’ coastal plain are finally receding, more than two weeks after Hurricane Florence made landfall, and USGS hydrographers are moving in rapidly to the areas where the flooding lingered longest. About 30 flood experts are traveling from one hard-hit community to the next, searching neighborhood by neighborhood and sometimes door to door for physical evidence of flooding. The experts are looking for telltale lines of seeds, leaves, grass blades and other debris left behind on buildings, bridges, other structures and even tree trunks as floodwaters recede. Once they find these high water marks, they label them, photograph them, survey them, and record crucial details about them. “I am proud of the USGS staff’s speed, thoroughness and accuracy as they do this essential work in difficult conditions, and under the pressure of time,” said USGS South Atlantic Water Science Center director Eric Strom. More: https://www.usgs.gov/news/usgs-crews-work-fast-capture-evidence-devastating-carolina-floods

For all USGS Coastal/Marine Hazards and Resources Program news: https://www.usgs.gov/natural-hazards/coastal-and-marine-geology/news

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

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in this issue:

Cover Story USGS Images Gas Hydrates with New Seismic Data on U.S. Mid-Atlantic Margin

News Brief
News Briefs

Experiment Shows “Turbidity Currents” Involve Seafloor Movement

Field Work
Life in Total Darkness— Underwater Cave Ecosystems

Recent Fieldwork

The Development and Demise of Florida’s Coral Reefs

Oct. - Nov. Publications

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