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News Archive - stories from April 2017.

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

USGS Researchers study the balance between reef growth and erosion on a Florida Keys reef

Dr. Lauren Toth (Research Oceanographer, SPCMSC) is leading a research expedition to the Florida Keys to assess the balance between reef growth and erosion at Hen & Chickens Reef. This research will follow up on a previous study by Toth, Ilsa Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist, SPMSC), and Harold Hudson (retired NOAA-FKNMS) that measured rates of bioerosion at Hen & Chickens using an experiment set up by Hudson nearly two decades ago. Toth and her team—Hunter Wilcox (CNT contractor at SPMSC), Elizabeth Whitcher (M.S. candidate at Florida Institute of Technology), and Robert Fidler (Ph.D. candidate at Florida Institute of Technology)—aim to develop a more complete picture of the balance between reef growth and erosion at this site by developing a survey-based carbonate budget. This CREST research project will provide important new insights into the drivers of reef erosion in the Florida Keys.

posted: 2017-04-27

photograph of USGS physical scientist, Lee-Gray BozeMeet USGS' newest laboratory!

Proven under Pressure: USGS Advances Capabilities for High-Pressure Seafloor Samples Containing Gas Hydrate

The pressure cores will be analyzed in the newly-inaugurated USGS Hydrate Pressure Core Analysis Laboratory (HyPrCAL)at the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center. This facility is the first in the U.S. to be designed for and dedicated to the analysis of pressure cores. USGS scientists will use HyPrCAL to conduct geotechnical, electrical, and hydraulic measurements on hydrate-bearing pressure cores and to complete benchtop testing of methane production from gas hydrates.

The USGS Gas Hydrates Project is a leading international gas hydrates research program focused on energy resource, environmental, and geohazard issues.

posted: 2017-04-17

Methane seeps emanating from the seafloor behind authigenic carbonate rock (formed as a result of microbially-mediated processes) on the upper continental slope (~450 meters) on the Virginia margin.Could Subsea Methane Hydrates Be a Warming "Tipping Point"?

Dr. Carolyn Ruppel of Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, lead author of a recent paper in Reviews of Geophysics, answers questions about the potential for subsea methane hydrates to contribute to global warming.posted: 2017-04-14

Map of study area at Assateague Island, Maryland and VirginiaUSGS releases 2016 lidar-derived topobathymetric data for Assateague Island, Maryland and Virginia

The USGS has released 2016 lidar-derived topobathymetric data for Assateague Island, Maryland and Virginia. The survey, flown in September 2016, post-Hurricane Hermine (USGS field activity number [FAN] 16CNT03:, was a repeat effort of the survey flown post-Hurricane Joaquin in November 2015 (FAN 2015-344-FA: The CMGP's National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards project uses lidar-derived data to quantify the vulnerability of shorelines to coastal change hazards, such as severe storms, sea-level rise, and shoreline erosion and retreat.

posted: 2017-04-13

Photo of Goleta Beach in southern California.Study forecasting erosion of southern California beaches draws widespread media attention

A recently published paper forecasts that southern California could lose 31 to 67 percent of its beaches by 2100, if sea level rises 3 to 6 feet and human intervention is limited. The story was picked up by media outlets around the world, including the Orange County Register, CBS Los Angeles, KRON4 San Francisco, the Hans India, and MeteoWeb. Lead author Sean Vitousek (now at University of Illinois, Chicago) and USGS colleagues developed a new mathematical model, CoSMoS-COAST (Coastal Storm Modeling System–Coastal One-line Assimilated Simulation Tool), to forecast shoreline change. They applied it in southern California to see where shorelines would be by the end of this century. The model is part of the larger CoSMoS system, which forecasts details of flooding and coastal erosion caused by storms of different intensities over a range of future sea levels. The Journal of Geophysical Research–Earth Surface posted the paper March 15, 2017. Contact: Patrick Barnard,, 831-460-7556
[View a larger version of the image]posted: 2017-04-06

NSF-GRIP fellow to visit USGS SPCMSC for research on coral reefs

University of Hawaiʻi Ph.D. candidate, Elizabeth (Beth) Lenz, will arrive in April to work with Ilsa Kuffner (USGS Research Marine Biologist) on the Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) project. Beth received a Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP) award to complete the study "Adding Coral Physiology and Genetic Metrics to USGS Calcification Monitoring on Florida Keys Reefs." The GRIP program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide opportunities for NSF Graduate Fellows to enhance their professional development by engaging in mission related research experiences with partner agencies across the federal government. Beth will be visiting SPCMSC for one month this spring, during which she will join Kuffner's field expedition to the Florida Keys, and again for several months next fall to process her samples in the laboratory. Beth's work will expand the understanding of reef resilience at the reef sites where USGS conducts calcification monitoring by incorporating novel, additional data on the reproductive status and symbionts of the coral colonies being monitored. Her data will allow USGS to test the hypothesis that seawater temperature, bleaching history, and/or symbiont type affect coral fecundity and growth rate.

posted: 2017-04-06

Photograph of the water control structure between Alviso Slough and about 14000 acres of former salt ponds currently undergoing restoration.Mapping the effects of storm flow on a wetland-restoration site in south San Francisco Bay

USGS scientists mapped the bottom of Alviso Slough in San Francisco Bay March 27–29 to measure scour caused by heavy storms. In the largest wetland-restoration project on the U.S. West Coast, the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is breaching levees to restore tidal flow to former commercial salt ponds. Managers worry that strong water flows—from levee breaches, storm runoff, or opening gates that route water into restored ponds—could stir up bottom sediment and re-mobilize mercury washed downriver from a now-closed mine. River flows in January and February were the highest since 1998. USGS, which maps the slough regularly to monitor effects of levee breaches and seasonal variability, conducted the extra survey to capture impacts of the high flows. USGS scientists will use the data to improve computer simulations developed to forecast the effects of continued restoration and sea-level rise. Bruce Jaffe, 831-460-7542, or Amy Foxgrover,, 831-460-7561posted: 2017-04-06

USGS Center Director interviewed by Channel 13 Fox News—Tampa

Cheryl Hapke (Center Director, SPCMSC) was interviewed by Channel 13 Fox News meteorologist Mike Bennett. The interview, which was filmed on site at Pass-a-Grille, St Pete Beach, is for a special on rising seas which is scheduled to be aired in May as part of a series on preparing for this year's hurricane season. Topics discussed included rising sea levels in Florida, including the Tampa Bay area, as well as the importance of barrier islands and their effects in dampening storm surge. As sea levels grow higher, storm surges would cause more erosion and more flooding in places that may not have flooded before. Bennett also asked if the Tampa Bay area could see nuisance flooding such as Miami is already experiencing.

posted: 2017-04-06

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