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News Archive - stories from February 2018.

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

Researchers from USGS attended the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting

Researchers from SPCMSC attended the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting (OSM), co-sponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), and the Oceanography Society (TOS), which was held 11–16 February, in Portland, Oregon. Scientists from St. Petersburg presented a broad array of research subjects. Listed below are the participants' papers with first authorship:

Jenna A Brown: CD34B-0125 Monitoring Coastal Change with Unmanned Aerial Systems at Madeira Beach, Florida
Cheryl J Hapke: CD34A-0115 Characterizing the Morphologic Evolution of a Breach System: Fire Island, NY
Jennifer L Miselis: CD33A-07 Barrier Island Response to Sea-level Rise Predicted by Coupling a Morphodynamic Model with Geomorphological and Storm-response Observations
Timothy Robert Nelson: MG51A-03 Incipient Motion Threshold of Variable Density, Size, and Shape Sand and Oil Agglomerates
Christopher G Smith: E23A-04 Developing a decadal scale sediment budget: Quantifying vertical fluxes contributing to the evolution of a marsh platform
Kathryn E.L. Smith: E24A-0260 Wetland Shoreline Erosion and Sediment Deposition in a Rapidly Eroding Marsh

posted: 2018-02-22

Gray-shaded map of Santa Rosa, California, black and red lines show the traces of active faults, stars show epicenters of damaging earthquakes in 1969, and little circles show small earthquake epicenters.Newspaper story on earthquake hazards in Santa Rosa, California, features information from USGS scientists

On February 21, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat published an article about what Sonoma County residents can expect from a significant earthquake on the San Andreas or Hayward/Rodgers Creek fault. USGS scientists Janet Watt (research geophysicist with Coastal and Marine Geology Program) and Suzanne Hecker (research geologist with Earthquake Hazards Program) provided information to the article’s author, reporter Stephen Nett. Hecker led a team that used laser-based mapping to confirm that the Rodgers Creek fault runs beneath the center of Santa Rosa. Watt led a team that discovered a link between the Hayward and Rodgers Creek faults, increasing the possibility that the two faults could rupture together and produce a larger earthquake than either fault alone. Contact: Janet Watt,, 831-460-7565posted: 2018-02-21

Waves from the ocean wash over a road on an island, part of an atoll in the Pacific Ocean.Pacific Missile Tracking Site Could Be Unusable in 20 Years Due to Climate Change

Living and working on the Pacific islands hosting a key missile tracking site soon could be almost impossible due to the impacts of climate change. In a report requested by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the USGS and partners forecast that the “tipping point” – the time at which potable groundwater on Roi-Namur Island will be unavailable due to wave-driven flooding – is projected to be reached around the year 2035 for the most extreme scenario.

Read the whole article.

posted: 2018-02-20

Map of Alaska and the surrounding ocean shows the terrain and ocean floor in relief, with a star south of the land in the ocean indicating the location of the epicenter of an earthquake that happened January 23, 2018.USGS fields tsunami questions after earthquake off Kodiak, Alaska

USGS geophysicist Eric Geist fielded questions about tsunamis after a magnitude 7.9 earthquake off southern Alaska prompted a tsunami watch for the U.S. west coast. The alert was issued shortly after midnight January 23 and canceled a few hours later, when coastal tide gauges and deep-ocean tsunami detectors had reported wave heights less than a foot. Fox 2/KTVU reporter Tom Vacar asked Geist about the possibility of a large tsunami hitting San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Geist told him the largest credible wave would be 3 to 5 meters (10 to 15 feet) high, information that was included in the resulting news story. Those wave heights come from computer models in the SAFRR Tsunami Scenario, a scenario of a large hypothetical tsunami developed to assist emergency planning in California. The Kodiak earthquake struck close to the epicenter of the hypothetical scenario earthquake but on a different type of fault. Contact: Eric Geist,, 650-329-5457posted: 2018-02-20

Photo looking down on the rocky coastline of Oregon from high up on a cliff, with breaking ocean waves on rocks.Workshops on subduction-zone science to reduce risk for communities

The USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center hosted two back-to-back subduction-zone workshops in Santa Cruz, California, from February 5–8, 2018. Participants included USGS scientists from the Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP), the Earthquake Hazards Program(EHP) the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, and the Landslide Hazards Program, plus academic collaborators from Humboldt State University and Oregon State University. The first workshop, led by Janet Watt and Nathan Miller (CMGP), focused on developing a science strategy for a new Coastal and Marine Subduction Zone Marine Geohazards Project. The second, led by Joan Gomberg and Brian Sherrod (EHP), brought together researchers working to reduce uncertainty related to Cascadia megathrust earthquake recurrence. These collaborations are part of a USGS-wide effort to advance subduction-zone science and reduce risk from earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. Contact: Janet Watt,, 831-460-7565posted: 2018-02-20

Cover art from the February 2018 issue of Eos magazine.USGS research featured on the cover of Eos

USGS research on a big earthquake fault off Alaska and Canada is featured on the cover of Eos, a journal of Earth and space science news published by the American Geophysical Union. “A Closer Look at an Undersea Source of Alaskan Earthquakes” describes findings from USGS-led surveys along a 500-kilometer-long undersea section of the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault. This large strike-slip fault off southeast Alaska and western British Columbia has generated several large earthquakes in the past century. Future quakes and associated tsunamis could threaten coastal communities and tourists in the region. The article appeared online in August 2017 and in print in the February 2018 issue. Contact: Danny Brothers,, 831-460-7460posted: 2018-02-16

Screenshot from an animation of a meteotsunami that shows the east coast of the United States with waves radiating out into the Atlantic Ocean.False-alarm tsunami alerts across the U.S. East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean prompt calls to USGS

On February 6, USGS research geophysicist Eric Geist spoke to reporters Rachel Becker of The Verge and Grace Toohey of The Advocate about tsunami hazards on Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico shores. They were writing articles about a tsunami alert sent that morning to cell phones across the U.S. East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean. The warning was a false alarm caused by a technical glitch, but it raised the question: what’s the likelihood of a dangerous tsunami in these regions? The Advocate article quoted Geist’s description of meteotsunamis, weather-generated tsunamis that could affect Gulf of Mexico shores. The Verge article linked to several USGS publications, including one written by Geist and others titled “Could It Happen Here?” Geist is part of a USGS team that studies tsunamis and tsunami sources. Contact: Eric Geist,, 650-329-5457posted: 2018-02-16

Participants of workshop, about 30 adults, standing in two rows outside in a courtyard against a tropical backdrop.International workshop on "Understanding Flooding on Reef-lined Island Coastlines"

USGS research geologist Curt Storlazzi led a workshop on “Understanding Flooding on Reef-lined Island Coastlines” (UFORIC) in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, from 5–7 February. Participants assessed the state of the science, identified knowledge gaps, and explored ways to produce real-time flood forecasts and improve climate-change impact assessments. The meeting drew more than 30 experts from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Hawaiʻi, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Israel, and the U.S. Topics included sea-level rise, wave climate (wave height, period, and direction in a particular location), how waves and water levels change as they move shoreward over coral reefs, and how coral reefs, reef-derived sediment, and the adjacent shorelines may evolve due to climate change. Storlazzi heads the USGS Coral Reef Project and The Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Pacific Ocean Atolls that House Department of Defense Installations project. Contact: Curt Storlazzi,, 831-460-7521posted: 2018-02-15

3-D computer image in bright colors from blue to green, shows that the seafloor has lots of grooves in the Pacific Ocean south of Costa Rica.Giant grooves discovered on an earthquake fault offshore Costa Rica

Scientists recently discovered enormous grooves buried under the seafloor near Costa Rica. Imagine dragging your outstretched fingers through wet beach sand, leaving long grooves behind - these buried grooves are similar, but much, much larger. The detailed three-dimensional data researchers used to uncover these corrugations can help them better understand large subduction zone earthquakes and related tsunamis. In the United States, subduction zones with megathrust faults exist offshore of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Read more

posted: 2018-02-15

Photo shows graduate students diving near coral to help collect data on the growth of and condition of coral reefsUSGS scientist travels to Pacific Panama to complete study on the impacts of climatic and oceanographic variability on coral reefs

SCMSC Research Oceanographer Lauren Toth will travel to Pacific Panama from February 26th–March 15th to collect data on the growth, erosion, and oceanography of coral reefs in Pacific Panama. On this trip, Toth and her collaborators from Florida Institute of Technology, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and Northeastern University will collect final measurements from a network of oceanographic and ecological monitoring stations that have been surveyed bi-annually since the Spring of 2016 as part of a NSF-funded project. Toth will visit the Gulf of Chiriqui, a region that experienced severe coral bleaching and mortality in response to the 2016 El Niño event, and the Gulf of Panama, which did not experience coral bleaching because the waters were cooled by seasonal upwelling. While in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Toth will also teach a graduate-level field course in coral-reef ecology for Northeastern University's Three Seas program that will use her research to provide students hand-on training in marine-science research. Panamanian reefs are especially sensitive to environmental disturbances and may, like "canaries in a coal mine," help scientists predict the future of coral-reef ecosystems on a global scale.

posted: 2018-02-08

Two photographs at Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles, top-most showing normal high tide on January 6, 2017, and bottom-most showing king high tide on February 10, 2017.USGS 360-degree videos of king tides show how rising seas will transform California beaches in the future

USGS oceanographer Juliette Finzi Hart shot 360-degree videos of king tides—the highest high tides of the year—throughout the Los Angeles region in 2016 and 2017. Roughly a dozen times a year, king tides lap the shores high up on the beach; this will be the “normal” high tide in about 20 years, based on National Academy of Sciences sea-level rise projections. King tide videos provide a glimpse of the future, and they help USGS scientists fine-tune the Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS), which combines projected sea-level rise and storm intensities to forecast future coastal flooding. The CoSMoS team has been working with partners to develop immersive virtual reality and video products to help communities understand how coastal hazards and rising seas will alter California's coastline. Previous products include the 2016 Santa Monica Pier Owl project, in which USGS CoSMoS simulations allowed people to see how Santa Monica beaches could be transformed in the future. Contact: Juliette Finzi Hart,, 831-460-7522posted: 2018-02-08

Photograph of sand.USGS participates in workshop on restoring Monterey Bay sand-mining site

Acting deputy director of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center Nadine Golden attended a workshop on restoring a sand-mining operation on California’s Monterey Bay. The CEMEX Lapis plant produces an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 cubic yards of sand per year, enough to fill up to 30,000 dump trucks. The last coastal sand mine in the U.S., it is scheduled to close no later than 2020. A consortium of organizations met January 17 with the goal of using “the best available science regarding…biodiversity, ecological function, coastal processes, and threats” to develop recommendations for future restoration and management of the 400-acre site. Golden sought to understand the scientific needs of participants and explained USGS capabilities and available data sets to inform their efforts. Contact: Nadine Golden,, 831-460-7530posted: 2018-02-08

USGS Scientists and researchers at the Institute for Geophysics publish a new study in Nature Communications

USGS Scientists, in collaboration with researchers at the Institute for Geophysics at University of Texas at Austin, have published a study titled "Pronounced centennial-scale Atlantic Ocean climate variability correlated with Western Hemisphere hydroclimate" in Nature Communications. The paper links salinity changes in the Gulf of Mexico over the past 4 millennia to changes in rainfall patterns in the Western Hemisphere. They argue that the link between salinity in the Gulf of Mexico and rainfall patterns is the Gulf Stream, which originates in the Gulf of Mexico; and understanding the long-term linkages between surface ocean circulation changes and precipitation patterns is important to projecting and preparing for these future changes in western hemisphere rainfall patterns.

posted: 2018-02-05

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