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USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program

Recent News

Recent News - stories from the last 14 days.

For information about a story, contact Ann Tihansky (202) 208-3342.

image of Rob Thieler, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center DirectorFacing Coastal Change in Massachusetts

USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center Chief, Rob Thieler, speaks with Heather Goldstone, science editor and host of Living Lab on the Point at WCAI, local National Public Radio for the Cape, Coast, and Islands, about facing coastal change in Massachusetts.

Listen to the interview, Facing Coastal Change: Massachusetts "One of Most Forward-Looking" States

posted: 2017-09-26

Conceptual model of carbon cycle processes and greenhouse gas flux changes in response to hydrological management in tidal wetlandsRestoring tides to reduce methane emissions. A new and potent Bue Carbon climate change intervention

New USGS research shows that degraded salt marshes can be a strong source of methane with climate impact equivalent to millions of automobiles.

A recently published article in Scientific Reports, Restoring tides to reduce methane emissions in impounded wetlands: A new and potent Blue Carbon climate change intervention, shows that many tidal wetlands in the U.S. and elsewhere are altered and degraded by tidal restrictions, leading to impoundment or drainage and a reversal from sink to potent source of greenhouse gases Blockage or restriction of tidal flows, through installation of dikes or tide gates, is a common method to protect coastal infrastructure; to drain tidal wetlands for farming, mosquito control, and development; or to raise or manage water tables and reduce salinity for aquaculture, mosquito control, rice production, and wildfowl management.

Ecosystem restoration in these tidally-restricted wetlands, by restoring natural water flows and salinity, provides an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote future carbon sequestration, while regaining wildlife habitat. In some cases, ecosystem restoration through opening of tidal restrictions can be consistent with coastal resilience planning, since exposure to tidal flow will tend to promote resumption of natural accretion of wetland elevation in response to sea level rise, resulting in enhanced protection of the landscape and infrastructure landward of the wetland.

posted: 2017-09-25

Screenshot of an animations of tsunami generated by September 8 magnitude 8.1 earthquake off Mexico.Animations of tsunami generated by September 8 magnitude 8.1 earthquake off Mexico

USGS has posted animations of a tsunami generated by the magnitude 8.1 earthquake that struck offshore of the Mexican state of Chiapas at 4:49 a.m. UTC on September 8 (11:49 p.m. September 7 local time). USGS geophysicist Eric Geist created the animations using data about the earthquake rupture. The highest wave measured 1.76 meters (5.8 feet) at Puerto Chiapas. In part because the earthquake was relatively deep—the initial break occurred beneath the large fault along which the Cocos oceanic plate is diving under the North American plate—not much vertical movement was transferred up to the seafloor and from there to the overlying water. Hence the tsunami was mild, a lucky thing for coastal communities already coping with deadly shaking. A second large (magnitude 7.1) earthquake on September 19 occurred on land 123 kilometers (76 miles) southeast of Mexico City, where shaking caused severe damage and many deaths. Contact: Eric Geist,, 650-329-5457

posted: 2017-09-23

USGS Oceanographer Invited as Keynote Speaker for International Conference

SPCMSC Research Oceanographer Joseph Long will travel to Delft, The Netherlands, to be a keynote speaker at the upcoming XBeachX conference which takes place November 1–3. Long will speak to the international community about USGS morphodynamic modeling of the coastal environment, including the use of models to predict the impact of extreme storms on barrier islands. The USGS has been integral in the testing and development of numerical modeling tools, such as XBeach, over the last decade. His talk will focus on past USGS advancements and ongoing research activities designed to improve model capabilities.

posted: 2017-09-21

Scientists to publish Open-file Report on the morphologic evolution of the Wilderness Breach at Fire Island

Scientists at SPCMSC are publishing a new Open-file Report summarizing the morphologic evolution of a breach system in the Otis Pike High Dune Wilderness Area on Fire Island, NY, that opened during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The report provides a synthesis of multiple datasets including time series of bathymetry, shoreline change, and hydrodynamics. The data together tell a story of response to storms versus calm periods and reveals that the breach reached a quasi-equilibrium state within 18 months of formation. The data and analyses were integral to the development of breach morphodynamic models (in collaboration with Deltares) and are critical to an Environmental Impact Statement that the National Park Service developed to manage the open breach within Fire Island National Seashore. The USGS-NPS partnership at Fire Island is an excellent example of USGS science being used to inform management planning and decision-making on federal lands.

The authors of the report are Cheryl Hapke, Tim Nelson, Rachel Henderson, Owen Brenner, and Jennifer Miselis.

posted: 2017-09-21

Photograph of the Matilija Dam taken by Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E News.Dams block sand from replenishing beaches

E&E News quoted USGS geologist Jonathan Warrick in an August 23 article on trapping of sediment by the Matilija Dam in Southern California. The obsolete dam has trapped about 8 million cubic yards of sediment, leading to the need for imported sand to maintain a popular beach at the mouth of the Ventura River. Warrick, who studies the effects of dam removals on coastal sediment, noted that most U.S. coasts are eroding and reduced sediment input exacerbates the problem. The article, “How a useless dam nearly destroyed an iconic beach,” recounts the history of the Matilija Dam and describes efforts to address the difficulties entailed in removing it. Contact: Jon Warrick,, 831-460-7569

posted: 2017-09-18

Photograph of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution autonomous underwater vehicle named Sentry.Now underway: expedition to shed light on little-known deep-ocean resources off Southeast U.S.

Scientists departed from Norfolk, Virginia, on September 12 to begin a three-week research cruise investigating deep-sea corals, canyons, and gas seeps off the Southeast U.S. The expedition is part of a multiyear study in which the USGS, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and NOAA are collaborating. Traveling aboard the NOAA Ship Pisces, researchers led by USGS ecologist Amanda Demopoulos will explore geological processes and biological features—such as corals, naturally occurring gas seeps, and the organisms that inhabit them—in deepwater habitats offshore North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. USGS scientists representing various disciplines are working with researchers from Temple University, the University of Georgia, Nova Southeastern University, Florida State University, Harvey Mudd College, the University of New Hampshire, and the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research (NIOZ). Learn more at USGS DISCOVRE. Follow the expedition at DEEP SEARCH. Contact: Amanda Demopoulos,, or Nancy Prouty,, 831-460-7526

posted: 2017-09-15

The USGS National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards Storm Team is responding to Hurricane Irma by providing multiple forecasts of water levels and potential coastal change impacts

The operational total water level and coastal change model is running continuously for southeast and southwest Florida, and provided early guidance of increasing water levels. Coastal change forecasts were initiated on Sept. 6 and continued through Sept. 9. Forecasts covered sandy areas in southwest Florida, Atlantic Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Assessments and updates were posted on the Coastal Change Hazards Portal. The team is working with federal partners on lidar collection, and will use the NOAA images for a qualitative look at impacts, for pre/post photo pairs illustrating range of coastal change, and to direct possible ground response.

In addition to the regular NACCH post-storm response, there are a number of post-Irma activities planned for research projects with a storm focus, including:

NACCH forecasting storm-induced total water levels (Joe Long and Jenna Brown, Research Oceanographers, SPCMSC): Prior to landfall, the team deployed an ADCP offshore of Madeira Beach where observations of wave runup have been collected. Ground and drone surveys of Madeira Beach will take place on Friday, Sept. 16.

RSCC quick response (Jenna Brown): Remote Sensing Coastal Change (RSCC) will coordinate with project leads (Jonathan Warrick, PCMSC, Research Geologist; Chris Sherwood, Oceanographer, WHSC; and Nathaniel Plant, Research Oceanographer, SPCMSC) on using Structure-from-Motion techniques to measure post-storm topography and quantify coastal change.

posted: 2017-09-14

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Page Last Modified: December 05, 2016 11:14 AM (JSG)