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USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program

News Archive

News Archive - stories from September 2017.

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

Mary McGann, left, USGS, and Rachel Lauer, University of Calgary, sample pore fluids from sediment cores collected aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship John P. Tully along the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault offshore of southeast Alaska. Photo by Jamie Conrad, USGS.Investigating earthquake hazards posed by a large fault offshore of southeast Alaska and western Canada

A multinational research cruise is investigating the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault offshore southeast Alaska and western Canada to understand hazards it poses to adjacent coastal communities. This fault, like the San Andreas fault to the south, separates the Pacific plate from the North American plate and has produced numerous large earthquakes. The expedition began September 12 and will conclude October 1. It is the latest in a series of research cruises investigating earthquake and tsunami hazards along the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault. Working aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship John P. Tully, USGS scientists and colleagues from Natural Resources Canada, University of Calgary, and the Sitka Sound Science Center are collecting samples of seafloor sediment, photographs and video of the seafloor, and sonar images of sediment layers below the seafloor. Contact: Jamie Conrad,, or Danny Brothers,

Learn more about USGS earthquake hazards studies in southeastern Alaska.

posted: 2017-09-28

Snippet of an orthophoto of the mouth of the Elwha River, Washington State, USA, compiled from hundreds of images taken July 25, 2017. The images were collected with two Ricoh GR cameras operating at 2-second intervals, mounted on opposite wings of a Cessna 172 piloted by Rite Bros. Aviation. The images were processed using Structure-from-Motion techniques.Story about Washington's Elwha River after dam removal features USGS scientist

USGS geologist Andy Ritchie is featured in a High Country News article about recovery of Washington’s Elwha River after removal of two large dams. Ritchie guided the article’s author through the upper dam site and the Elwha’s mouth on the coast, pointing out how the freed river is sculpting new channels and building up beaches. Ritchie worked for the National Park Service at the time of the interview, monitoring the river’s response to dam removal and developing a novel airplane-mounted camera system to collect low-cost repeat aerial imagery. Now with USGS, he continues studying the Elwha as part of the multiagency Elwha River Restoration project. The article, which also quotes USGS wildlife researcher Rebecca McCaffery, is the cover story of High Country News’ September 4 issue. Contact: Andy Ritchie,, 831-460-7454

Learn more on the web site "USGS Science to Support the Elwha River Restoration Project"

posted: 2017-09-28

Healthy elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata, like this provides the critical ecosystem service of building the reef crest that protects shorelines during storms.Coral reef decline may have exacerbated flooding by Hurricane Irma

USGS geologist Curt Storlazzi spoke to Chelsea Harvey of the Washington Post on September 7 about the role of coral reefs in protecting coastlines from storms like Hurricane Irma. Storlazzi confirmed that recent deterioration of coral reefs would likely result in greater flooding. Healthy coral reefs protect coasts by dissipating wave energy some distance from the shoreline. Storlazzi shared information from two papers he co-authored: “The effectiveness of coral reefs for coastal hazard risk reduction and adaptation” (Nature Communications, 2014) and “The influence of coral reefs and climate change on wave-driven flooding of tropical coastlines” (Geophysical Research Letters, 2015). He leads the USGS Coral Reef Project. Harvey’s article, “Scientists say damage to Florida’s coral reef has made the state more vulnerable to storm surges,” was published September 12. Contact: Curt Storlazzi,, 831-460-7521posted: 2017-09-28

Dr. Christina Kellogg, USGS MicrobiologistUSGS Researcher awarded 2018 Rudi Lemberg Travelling Fellowship by Australian Academy of Science

SPCMSC Research Microbiologist Christina Kellogg was recognized as a prominent international scientist by the Australian Academy of Science and awarded the 2018 Rudi Lemberg Travelling Fellowship. This fellowship fosters the international exchange of scientific ideas and supports lectures for the general public. Dr. Kellogg will work with coral reef experts at James Cook University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. She will present academic and public lectures in Townsville, Brisbane, and Sydney as part of the Fellowship, and is currently working with colleagues in those cities to plan out a schedule for September–October 2018.


posted: 2017-09-27

USGS Microbiome Research Fact Sheet Released

Inspired by the National Microbiome Initiative, this fact sheet describes key areas where USGS microbiome science is meeting national needs. USGS SPCMSC Research Microbiologist Christina Kellogg and USGS Wildlife Disease Coordinator Camille Hopkins co-authored a fact sheet sponsored by the Ecosystems Mission Area to draw attention to the broad scope of microbiome research occurring across mission areas in the USGS. It includes specific vignettes profiling microbiome projects on invasive species management, wildlife health and disease, spread of antibiotic resistance, ecosystem conservation and management, improving production of natural gas, permafrost, and bioremediation.


posted: 2017-09-27

Data Release: Post-Hurricane Matthew Coastal Oblique Aerial Photographs, October 13–15, 2016

The USGS SPCMSC is releasing the oblique coastal photography collected after Hurricane Matthew made landfall in October 2016. The USGS conducts storm-response photography missions to document and understand the changes in the Nation's coasts to extreme storms. The images, flown at a height 500 feet and about 1000 feet offshore, offer a unique perspective of the coast after a storm. Features such as beach erosion, dune erosion and overwash can all be clearly characterized in this imagery. It also allows researchers to verify coastal change model predictions quickly, as well as inform coastal planners and manager decisions on their response to future storms. These images are also used in conjunction with previous collections to present before and after image pairs demonstrating coastal impacts on the Hurricane Matthew response web page.

Link: 2017-09-27

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 123 kilometers (76 miles) southeast of Mexico City, where shaking caused severe damage and many deaths. The second earthquake occurred on land and did not produce a tsunami.
Contact: Eric Geist,, 650-329-5457posted: 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,, 831-460-7569posted: 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,, 831-460-7526posted: 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

sonar image of the wreck of the Virginia, an oil tanker torpedoed by a German submarine in the Gulf of Mexico during WWIIWoods Hole scientist contributes to Science article on underwater mudslides

Dr. Jason Chaytor, research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, contributes to the Science article about underwater mudslides. The Germans torpedoed a ship during WWII and the wreck is now revealing secrets about underwater mudslides. Read the article online at sciencemag.orgposted: 2017-09-11

Coastal Change Hazards Portal - IrmaBeaches from Florida to South Carolina Likely to Erode, Be Overwashed, or Inundated by Hurricane Irma

New projections from the U.S. Geological Survey indicate Hurricane Irma is likely to cause significant beach erosion along the U.S. east coast from Florida to South Carolina, with water overtopping dunes along 80% and inundating 16% of the coast. See data in the Coastal Change Hazards Portal.posted: 2017-09-07

Sequence of photographs showing the Elwha Dam demolition.New report synthesizes U.S. dam-removal studies

The rate of dam removal in the U.S. has increased over past decades, motivating a working group at the USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis to review available dam-removal studies. The synthesis of their findings, “Dam removal: Listening in,” appeared July 31 in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) journal Water Resources Research. Contributors include ecologists, geologists, hydrologists, biologists, engineers, and geomorphologists from various federal agencies, universities, and a nonprofit organization. Among the findings is that physical responses, like sediment release, are typically rapid, whereas ecosystem responses vary with location along the river. On August 25, a reporter from Water Deeply interviewed first author Melissa Foley (former USGS research ecologist now with Auckland Council in New Zealand), coauthor and USGS research geologist Amy East, and two colleagues from the U.S. Forest Service. Contacts: Melissa Foley,, +64 21 080 65553; and Amy East,, 831-460-7533posted: 2017-09-05

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