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Federal Agencies Join Forces to Measure Bonnie’s Impact to NC Beaches
Released: 9/1/1998

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Marion Fisher, USGS 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4583

Donna McCaskill, NOAA, Charleston, NC
Phone: 843-740-1272



Properly assessing the impact of a hurricane is an enormous task. NASA, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are combining efforts to provide public officials with the tools they need to accurately determine coastal change.

The goal of the joint project between NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, VA; NOAA’s Coastal Services Center, Charleston, SC and the USGS Center for Coastal Geology, St. Petersburg, FL is to help state officials determine changes to North Carolina beaches following Hurricane Bonnie.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Twin Otter aircraft equipped with a NASA laser topographic mapping instrument and Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver will fly the shoreline affected by Hurricane Bonnie taking measurements to develop detailed maps of the beach. The data acquired from these flights will be compared to baseline data collected during a similar mission conducted in October 1997. Officials will then be able to determine changes which occurred to the beach during the past year.

The NOAA aircraft is scheduled to fly the coast of Virginia, North Carolina and the northern beaches of South Carolina from Tuesday to Thursday (Sept. 1 to Sept. 3).

"Using technology developed by NASA Wallops Flight Facility to map polar ice caps, the laser can map in a week what would take months using traditional surveying methods," said Bill Krabill, NASA Project Scientist at Wallops.

"While this project is still in the experimental stage, scientists are seizing the opportunity Bonnie presents to help North Carolina officials document beach erosion and at the same time showcase and fine-tune this exciting project. Laser beach mapping should prove to be the fastest and most economical way to determine shoreline change after a storm and on an annual basis," Krabill said.

The mapping effort is being accomplished with the NASA Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) flown on the NOAA aircraft at an altitude of 1,800 ft. The laser collects 5,000 spot elevations per second as the aircraft travels over the coast at approximately 150 feet per second. Using the laser and GPS receiver, researchers are able to survey the beach elevations to an accuracy of four inches. USGS coastal geologists will be conducting ground surveys of impacted areas to verify the laser results.

Laser beach mapping also is being used to study the coast line of the Delmarva Peninsula and on the West Coast, as California, Oregon and Washington document shoreline changes caused by El Nino driven storms.

Further information on the Airborne Topographic Mapper and beach mapping can be obtained at the following web sites: http://aol.wff.nasa.gov/aoltm/projects/beachmap/, http://www.noaa.gov/text/beach.html/ and http://walrus.wr.usgs.gov/docs/projects/scarol.html

NOTE TO EDITORS: Media are invited to interview the scientists participating in this project on Thursday, Sept. 3, at 2 p.m. at the Aeronautics FBO, Wilmington (NC) Airport which is near the Federal Express terminal. For directions or further information contact Donna McCaskill, NOAA Coastal Services Center, at (843) 740-1272.

Marion Fisher, USGS, Reston, can be reach in NC through Sept. 3: 910 763-4653


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