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U.S. West Coast Erosion Spiked In Winter 2009-10, Previewing Likely Future As Climate Changes

July 27, 2011 2 comments

nanopatentsandinnovations

Knowing that the U.S. West Coast was battered during the winter before last by a climatic pattern expected more often in the future, scientists have now pieced together a San Diego-to-Seattle assessment of the damage wrought by that winter’s extreme waves and higher-than-usual water levels. Getting a better understanding of how the 2009–10 conditions tore away and reshaped shorelines will help coastal experts better predict future changes that may be in store for the Pacific coast, the researchers say.

Winter storm erosion of coastal bluffs at Ocean Beach, San Francisco. Damaged roadway in photo is Great Highway (January 2010)

Credit: Patrick Barnard, USGS

Credit: Patrick Barnard, USGS
“The stormy conditions of Read more…

Collapsing Coastlines

July 4, 2011 Comments off

sciencenews

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Storms can ravage coastal permafrost, as shown near the village of Kaktovik, Alaska.© Accent Alaska.com/Alamy

Gray waves surged over miles and miles of open water, breaking against the bluffs underlying Kaktovik. The tiny village sits precariously on the Beaufort Sea, a frigid body of water bordering Alaska’s northeastern Arctic coast. As the choppy waters inundated vulnerable stretches of shoreline, the surf carved deep chasms into the tall bluffs.

Torre Jorgenson, a geomorphologist working near Kaktovik, watched the storm boil up, shaking homes and boats for nearly two days in July 2008. Dramatic erosion followed soon after. Blocks of graphite-colored earth, as much as 10 meters wide and several meters deep, toppled into the sea one by one like skyscrapers in a Japanese monster film.

“The locals had never seen that type of erosion,” says Jorgenson, also president of the U.S. Permafrost Association. “It was something new, a regime change.”

The erosion Jorgenson witnessed was a potent warning to Kaktovik’s residents of the instability of their coastal home. Seaside bluffs and beaches across the Arctic are Read more…