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USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program

News Archive

News Archive - stories from September 2013.

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

Christina KelloggUSGS Research Microbiologist Profiled for NOAA OceanAGE

Christina Kellogg (USGS-St. Petersburg) is now one of seven featured scientists on the NOAA OceanAGE (Ocean Careers to Inspire Another Generation of Explorers) web site. The purpose of the site is to invite students to learn about the talented people who explore our ocean planet, and includes careers from underwater pilot to research scientists. Dr. Kellogg was interviewed during a 2012 NOAA research cruise and her profile includes still photos, a transcript of questions and answers, and video clips of her interview.

To see the Kellogg interview, visit: Christina Kellogg - OceanAGE Career Profile.

posted: 2013-09-26

St. Petersburg Science FestivalUSGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center Continues Leadership Role for 3rd Annual St. Petersburg Science Festival

The USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center is again leading a consortium of over 60 university departments, government agencies, and private partners for the 3rd Annual "Science in the Sun" St. Petersburg Science Festival to be held October 18-19 on the neighboring USFSP (University of South Florida St. Petersburg) campus. The festival program has expanded from 90 to over 105 exhibits plus shows and now includes a Friday field trip for schools (1,000+ registered). USGS exhibits on both Friday's Sneak Peek for Schools and Saturday's public festival include: (1) Hurricanes & Extreme Storms; (2) 'Did the Coast Change?' Crowdsourcing Project; (3) Catch Climate Fever; (4) Coral Reefs and Climate Change; and (5) Amazing Aquatic Life in cooperation with the Southeast Ecological Center (SESC). The additional media partners and marketing efforts are expected to push attendance over last year's 15,000 festival visitors.

For more information, visit St. Petersburg Science Festival.

posted: 2013-09-26

USGS tidal flow monitoring station at little egg inlet, nj.Geologic Mapping of Barnegat Bay, NJ

The USGS, in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) and the Barnegat Bay Partnership, has successfully completed a 2-year effort to characterize the physical environment of Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary. The primary goal of the study was to improve understanding of the causes behind degraded water quality in the bay. Over 2000 kilometers (>1200 miles) of data were collected using boat-based acoustic sensors that measure depth and the composition and distribution of the sediments within the bay. Data from acoustic sensors were combined with data from airborne optical sensors to create a complete picture of bay depth, one of the first efforts of its kind in a shallow estuary. In late 2012, the landfall of Hurricane Sandy heavily impacted the study area. However, data collected before and after this storm as part of this project will help scientists understand the impact of the storm on the water quality, sediments, and habitats within the bay.

For further reading about the project click here: Sound Waves

For further reading about the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the estuary and the project, click here: Sound Waves

Contact: Jennifer Miselis

posted: 2013-09-26

The March 11, 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami caused significant damage to ships and docks within Crescent City Harbor in California. A number of ships were sunk within the harbor.USGS and Collaborators Release Report on Hypothetical Alaskan Tsunami and Its Likely Impacts on the California Coast

A new report, Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR) Tsunami Scenario, presents a hypothetical yet plausible scenario in which a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Alaska triggers a tsunami that reaches California. In this scenario, approximately three-quarters of a million people—about a third of them tourists and visitors—would need to be evacuated in just a few hours. Additionally, one-third of the boats and more than half of the docks in California's marinas could be damaged or destroyed, resulting in $700 million in losses. The highest waves would be in central and northern California, but much of the damage would occur in southern California's numerous marinas and large port facilities. Economic losses in California due to physical damage and business interruption would range from $5-10 billion, depending on resilience strategies. Neither of the State's nuclear power plants would likely be damaged by this particular event. The scenario was the focus of workshops led by USGS scientists and partners in California coastal communities September 4-10, 2013, in partnership with the California Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. Read the multichaptered report; view a 4-page USGS Fact Sheet; and learn about other SAFRR projects.

For more information, contact Stephanie Ross,, 650-329-5326.

posted: 2013-09-23

icebreaker healyIcebreaker Cruise Measures Arctic Greenhouse Gases

The USGS Gas Hydrates Project will measure the concentrations of methane and carbon dioxide in near-surface waters and at multiple vertical levels in the atmospheric marine boundary layer aboard the USCG icebreaker Healy in October 2013. Cavity ring-down spectroscopy and other instrumentation will constrain ocean-atmosphere methane and carbon dioxide fluxes in real-time along a 4000-km-long roundtrip route from the Bering Strait through the US Beaufort Sea and east to the Amundsen Gulf. The data will be used to assess the hypothesis that the Arctic region is undergoing rapid leakage of methane in response to global warming and will provide unprecedented information about pan-Western Arctic greenhouse gas dynamics.

Contact John Pohlman,, or Carolyn Ruppel,

posted: 2013-09-23

Photograph of the Miocene Marnoso-arenacea Formation in the northern Italian Apennines. The thick sand turbidite bed is called the Contessa bed, which can been seen across an area of 120 x 30 km.USGS Presentation at Field Workshop on Submarine Sediment Flows

USGS oceanographer Jingping Xu gave an invited presentation titled “Grain-Size and Sediment Concentration within Turbidity Currents” at the field workshop “Future Directions for Research on Submarine Sediment Flows,” Sept. 9-13, in Santa Sofia, Italy. The workshop brought together modelers and observational field researchers to discuss and identify key research questions and needs in submarine sediment flow studies that they hope will lead to new collaborative research initiatives. The workshop, organized by Dr. Peter Talling of UK's National Oceanographic Centre, was attended by geologists, sedimentologists, and numerical modelers from the UK, Italy, France, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Norway, Japan, Canada, and the United States.

For more information, contact Jingping Xu at or 831-460-7426.posted: 2013-09-23

Left, 3 abyssal nodules, each 3 cm in diameter, from the Clarion-Clipperton prime nodule zone (international waters); right, cross-section of nodule from the Blake Plateau off the southeastern United States coast.USGS Leadership and Science at the Underwater Mining Institute Conference

USGS scientist James Hein will be participating in the 42nd Underwater Mining Institute (UMI) Conference, Oct. 19-27, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The UMI Conference is the annual meeting of the International Marine Minerals Society (IMMS), of which Hein is president. The conference brings together leaders from academia, industry, and government who share a common interest in marine mining and exploration. Hein will chair the IMMS Executive Board meeting, and will give a presentation on “Critical metals in manganese nodules from the global ocean.” The presentation will address the globally recognized need to find new sources of critical metals that are used extensively in high-tech, green-tech, energy, and military applications; very large sources of these rare metals occur in marine mineral deposits.

For more information, contact James Hein at or 831-460-7419.posted: 2013-09-23

USGS scientists Amy Draut and Josh Logan set up a ground-based lidar (light detection and ranging) scanner to measure the topography of the lower Elwha River flood plain. Photograph by Andy Ritchie.Engineering Award for Elwha River Restoration Project Acknowledges USGS Science

Although not a direct award recipient, the USGS was listed as a significant scientific contributor to the Elwha River Restoration Project, which has been named the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists (AEG) Outstanding Environmental and Engineering Geologic Project for 2013. Award winners are the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and Interior bureaus National Park Service, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The project seeks to restore the ecosystem and native anadromous fisheries of the Elwha River in northern Washington, primarily through the removal of two large dams. The USGS is collaborating with other Federal, Tribal, State, and local entities to provide scientific monitoring and analyses of the impacts of this project—the largest U.S. dam removal to date—on fish, water, and sediment.

For more information, contact Jon Warrick,, 831-460-7569.

posted: 2013-09-20

Map showing pilot study areaUSGS Scientists met with NWS Meteorologists and Forecasters in Ruskin, FL on Pilot Study for Coastal Change Hazards

On Sept. 5, SPCMSC scientists Hilary Stockdon, Kara Doran, and Kristy Sopkin met with meteorologists and forecasters from the National Weather Service (NWS) in Ruskin, FL, to discuss forecasting coastal change for beaches in the Tampa Bay area. The USGS and the NWS are collaborating on a pilot study to demonstrate how NWS wave and water level forecasts can be used as input for USGS models in operational forecasts of beach erosion.

posted: 2013-09-20

Map showing R/V Healy routes 2010-12USGS Scientist Interviewed about Ocean Acidification Article

On September 13, USGS research oceanographer Dr. Lisa Robbins (USGS-St. Petersburg) was interviewed by Alan Stahler of KVMR-FM 89.5 in Nevada City, California, concerning the Robbins et al. paper that was recently published in PLOS ONE on "Baseline Monitoring of the Western Arctic Ocean. Estimates 20% of the Canadian Basin Surface Waters are undersaturated with respect to Aragonite." Strahler's show on Science and the Environment is heard Tuesdays at noon.

For more information on the PLOS ONE article, see the USGS Press Release.

posted: 2013-09-20

R/V Centennial with crewUSGS and UW extract long sediment cores from Hood Canal to examine natural versus anthropogenic controls on marine ecosystem stressors

During mid-September 2013, researchers from the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center (PCMSC), the USGS St Petersburg Science Center, St Petersburg, Florida (SPCMSC), and the University of Washington (UW) conducted a research cruise aboard the R/V Centennial ( to Lynch Cove, WA, the terminus of Hood Canal in Puget Sound. Parts of Hood Canal and Lynch Cove suffer periodic depletions in bottom water oxygen (hypoxia), which can negatively affect ecosystem health. While delivery of terrigenous constituents that contribute to low bottom water oxygen are likely enhanced by decades of widespread urbanization, agriculture, and silvaculture, this research was directed at decoupling natural from anthropogenic controls on such ecosystem stressors.

Sampling included a series of 16 Van Veen surface sediment grab samples and and five long sediment kasten cores. Lisa Osterman (USGS-St. Petersburg, Fl) will examine subsets of foraminifera as tracers of low oxygen events. Additional analyses including grain size, C, N concentration and isotopes, redox-sensitive trace elements such as vanadium, rhenium, and uranium, and sterol, lignin phenol biomarkers, along with the foraminifers may resolve historic low oxygen events from modern processes and may also provide insight into how climate change may impact ecosystem health in this fjord.

posted: 2013-09-20

NWS map showing Portland-Gray, MEUSGS Oceanographer to meet with NWS forecasters to discuss Application of USGS Wave Runup Models and Coastal Change Assessments

From Sept. 10-12, Hilary Stockdon (USGS-St. Petersburg) will be in Gray, ME, meeting with meteorologists from the National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Office to discuss application of USGS wave runup models and coastal change assessments to beach and wave conditions in the northeast. The groups are collaborating on a pilot study investigating the use of USGS models to forecast overwash events on more complex shorelines.

posted: 2013-09-20

Photograph of the large jökulhlaup that spread out across Skeišarįrsandur (glacial outwash plain) from the terminus of Skeišarįrjökull, an outlet glacier of VatnajökullSurveying Ice and Fire: The First Map of All of Iceland's Glaciers and Subglacier Volcanic Calderas Released

For the first time, all of Iceland's glaciers are shown on a single map, produced by the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), in collaboration with the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Iceland Geosurvey. The map is the first to incorporate historical data and coverage from aerial photographs and remote sensing satellites, such as Landsat and SPOT, to show the change in the areal extent of glaciers during the past century.

Read the USGS News Release

Read the USGS Top Story

Listen to the Podcast

posted: 2013-09-20

U.S. Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry ProjectUSGS Research Scientists participate in 2nd U.S. Ocean Acidification Principal Investigators' Meeting

From Sept. 18-20, three USGS scientists will participate in a National Ocean Acidification (OA) meeting in Washington, D.C., at Gallaudet University's Kellogg Conference Center sponsored by NOAA, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Ocean and Biochemistry Project. Kim Yates will lead Session 1 on Monday, Sept. 18, on Scientific Themes in OA Research; Lisa Robbins will be giving a poster on her recent PLOS ONE paper, "Approximately 20% of Canadian Basin surface waters are undersaturated with respect to aragonite"; and Ilsa Kuffner will also be giving a poster on a Calcification Monitoring Network in the Florida Keys.

For more information about the OA Principal Investigator's meeting, visit:

posted: 2013-09-20

image of research vessel nautilusMarine Geohazards Research in the Caribbean Sea

The USGS, in collaboration with the Ocean Exploration Trust, the University of Puerto Rico, and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, is conducting a multidisciplinary research cruise in the northeast Caribbean Sea between October 4-18 2013, aboard the ship E/V Nautilus. The primary goal is to better understand the timing of tectonic activity along submarine fault systems, such as those responsible for the 1842 earthquake in Hispaniola, the 1918 earthquake in western Puerto Rico, and the 1867 earthquake in the Virgin Islands. Dives will be carried out with the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules, equipped with high-definition video cameras that will investigate: 1) submarine landslide scars that either failed recently (1918) or may fail in the near future, 2) biological diversity in this totally unknown region, and 3) the existence of an oceanographic intermediate-depth water flow from the Atlantic to the Caribbean. The expedition will be broadcast live to numerous schools, boys and girls clubs and science museums around the country. Contact: Uri ten Brink,

posted: 2013-09-20

image of research vessel Sarmiento de GamboaInternational Research on Marine Geohazards

The USGS, in collaboration with Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain, the Spanish Royal Naval Observatory, and the University of Paris 06, France, is conducting a geophysical research cruise around the Dominican Republic and Haiti between November 10-26, 2013 aboard the Spanish research vessel Sarmiento de Gamboa. The goal of the cruise is to understand the tectonic forces that have shaped the ocean floor and caused large, damaging earthquakes (eg., Haiti 2010), landslides and tsunamis in this dynamic region. The study employees three data acquisition methods: detailed seafloor mapping using multibeam sonar, multichannel seismic reflection, and ocean bottom seismometers. Contact: Uri ten Brink,

posted: 2013-09-20

image of gas hydrateUnlocking the Potential of 'Flammable Ice'

Japanese researchers, in collaboration with American scientists, including U.S. Geological Survey's hydrate research project staff, are studying sediment cores containing methane hydrates, icy constructs of water molecules with the explosive gas methane trapped within.

Read the full article in the New York Times

posted: 2013-09-17

Dead fish picked up on the beach at Keļæ½ehi Lagoon. Photo credit, Elizabeth Miles.Molasses Spill and Fish Kill in Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii

USGS marine scientists Mike Torresan (geologist) and Dave Cacchione (emeritus oceanographer) were interviewed by CNN about a massive molasses spill that occurred in Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii, on September 9, 2013, killing numerous fish and other sea life. They were cited in the report posted on September 12 at Torresan explained that the molasses suffocated fish by displacing oxygen-rich water, and Cacchione noted that unusually high tides expected later in the week could help speed dispersal of the molasses. For more information, contact Mike Torresan,, 831-460-7425.

posted: 2013-09-16

Unprecedented Rate and Scale of Ocean Acidification Found in the ArcticUnprecedented Rate and Scale of Ocean Acidification Found in the Arctic

Acidification of the Arctic Ocean is occurring faster than projected according to new findings published in the journal PLOS ONE. The increase in rate is being blamed on rapidly melting sea ice, a process that may have important consequences for health of the Arctic ecosystem.

Ocean acidification is the process by which pH levels of seawater decrease due to greater amounts of carbon dioxide being absorbed by the oceans from the atmosphere. Currently oceans absorb about one-fourth of the greenhouse gas. Lower pH levels make water more acidic and lab studies have shown that more acidic water decrease calcification rates in many calcifying organisms, reducing their ability to build shells or skeletons. These changes, in species ranging from corals to shrimp, have the potential to impact species up and down the food web.

Read the USGS Press Release

posted: 2013-09-13

Photograph of the research vessel Alaskan Gyre.Studying Tsunami Sources Near Valdez, Alaska

USGS personnel from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, and the Alaska Science Center will look for sub-seafloor records of earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis near Valdez, Alaska, including the 1964 magnitude 9.2 earthquake and tsunami. The 1964 tsunami was the most destructive in Alaska history and also impacted Canada and the U.S. west coast. Chirp and multichannel seismic-reflection systems on the USGS research vessel Alaskan Gyre will be used for surveys in Port Valdez September 3-13, 2013. Goals include (a) determining whether 1964 slope failures collapsed as contiguous blocks or broke up into debris flows, and (b) looking for buried evidence of previous earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis. More accurate tsunami-source models benefit NOAA, FEMA, NRC, coastal-state geologic agencies, reinsurance companies, local emergency responders, shipping/transit agencies, and energy-delivery agencies. For more information contact Tom Parsons,, 650-329-5074.

posted: 2013-09-06

Patrick Barnard surveying offshore in the Rincon focus area, on a personal watercraft.Coastal Surveys near Santa Barbara, California

USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center personnel will survey beaches and the nearshore ocean from Point Conception to Mugu Canyon, October 3-10, 2013. Walking, all-terrain vehicle, and personal watercraft GPS surveys will provide precise measurements of beach topography and nearshore bathymetry, adding to a 26-year record of surveys in the area. Long-term data show no major trends in erosion or deposition, except around the Santa Clara River mouth where flood deltas and subsequent erosion can cause shoreline change on the order of 100 meters. Surveys in focus areas show shoreline oscillations of 20-30 meters between winter (erosion) and summer (accretion), and net west-to-east alongshore sediment transport. Morphological analyses suggest that alongshore transport is only one-fifth of that estimated from harbor dredging records (Patsch and Griggs 2008, Marine Geology), likely due to the complex and intermittent transport regime and to overestimation by the dredging record approach. For more information contact Dan Hoover,, 831-460-7544; or visit the Santa Barbara Littoral Cell Coastal Processes Study project page.

posted: 2013-09-06

Screen shot of Bruce JaffeOceanographer Interviewed for TV News Segment on California Tsunami Scenario

On September 4, 2013, USGS oceanographer Bruce Jaffe was interviewed by KSBW-TV (Ch. 8, Salinas, CA) for a news segment about the newly released Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR) Tsunami Scenario (USGS Open-File Report 2013-1170,, which describes a plausible tsunami created by an earthquake offshore of Alaska and its probable impacts on the California coast. The reporter asked Jaffe how the hypothetical tsunami's effects would compare with those of the 2011 Japan tsunami. The interview aired September 4 on Action News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. For more information, contact Bruce Jaffe,, 831-460-7542; or see the USGS Fact Sheet The SAFRR Tsunami Scenario—Improving Resilience for California at

posted: 2013-09-06

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