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USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program

Recent News

Recent News - stories from the last 14 days.

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

Animation of USGS computer generated images at Big Sur landslide area.USGS helping to monitor and assess huge Big Sur landslide

USGS is collecting and analyzing air photos to help monitor a huge landslide that occurred May 20 on California’s Big Sur coast. A quarter-mile-wide lobe of rock and soil has buried State Highway 1 and extends into the Pacific Oceanat Mud Creek, about 140 miles south of San Francisco. The USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program’s Remote-Sensing Coastal Change project captured several photo sets during the recent slide activity and plans to shoot additional photos from airplane and drones during the coming weeks and months. Project scientists photograph the California coastline regularly and use “structure-from-motion” software to transform photos into 3D maps from which they can measure ground movement. They have flown and photographed the Big Sur coast several times this spring to track landslide activity in collaboration with geologists from the USGS Landslide Hazards Program. Watch a short animation of USGS computer generated images at Big Sur landslide area. Contact: Jon Warrick,, 831-5460-7569.

posted: 2017-05-27

USGS scientists to conduct bathymetric surveys offshore of Louisiana's Chenier Plain region

Scientists from the SPCMSC will conduct bathymetric surveys offshore of the Chenier Plain in western Louisiana in June and July, 2017. Using shallow-draft vessels, including two personal watercraft outfitted with bathymetric systems, the scientists will survey 230 km of the coastal zone with a 500-m by 1-km grid from the shoreline out to 4 km offshore. Data collected from the western part of the Chenier Plain will be compared to a similar survey conducted in 2006 to monitor change. The eastern portion of the Chenier Plain, including offshore of Marsh Island, has not been surveyed and in part is listed as "unsurveyed" on nautical charts. The study is being conducted in collaboration with the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) as part of the Barrier Island Comprehensive Monitoring Project and will include integrating the bathymetric data with elevation measurements of the Chenier Plain using lidar. Results will be published in Data Series and Open-File Reports, and will be included in the Louisiana Coastal Information Management System. The study will provide a baseline for future monitoring efforts and provide vital information for Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan.

posted: 2017-05-25

Wave-driven flooding and overwash on Roi-Namur Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Photo credit: Peter Swarzenski, USGS.Coastal flooding will double in decades due to sea-level rise

Coastal flood frequency will increase dramatically in coming decades, even with small amounts of sea-level rise, according to a new study in Scientific Reports. Scientists at USGS, University of Illinois, and University of Hawai‘i show that just 10 to 20 centimeters of sea-level rise, expected between 2030 and 2050, will more than double coastal flooding frequency along most coastlines around the globe. Tropical regions will be hit hardest, threatening the livability of low-lying Pacific islands and the economies of coastal cities. North America’s west coast and Europe’s Atlantic coast will also undergo increases in flood frequency. The authors combined sea-level projections with wave, tide, and storm-surge models to estimate global increases in coastal flooding. This study is the first to include waves in an analysis of global future flooding. It highlights an important consequence of global climate change. Contact: Patrick Barnard,, 831-460-7556

posted: 2017-05-25

USGS scientists continue investigations into the history of coral reef development in Dry Tortugas National Park

Dr. Lauren Toth (Research Oceanographer, SPMSC) will be leading a 10-day reef-coring expedition to collect data on the Holocene history of reef development in Dry Tortugas National Park. USGS researchers have been studying the geology and ecology of coral reefs in Dry Tortugas National Park since the late 1960s, but there are important unanswered questions about the history of reef development in this region. In particular, it is unknown why elkhorn coral, which was historically dominant throughout the western Atlantic, was absent in the fossil record of the Dry Tortugas. Recently, however, SPCMSC CREST scientists Ilsa Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist) and Anastasios Stathakopoulos (Oceanographer) discovered extensive deposits of sub-fossil elkhorn on Pulaski Bank in the northeast part of the park. In mid-June, Toth and her team from SPMSC—Anastasios Stathakopoulos (Oceanographer), BJ Reynolds (Oceanographer & Dive Safety Officer), and Hunter Wilcox (Research Technician, CNT) will collect reef cores and additional samples of sub-fossil elkhorn from Pulaski Bank to better understand the history of elkhorn populations and their role in reef development in the region. The team will also be joined by Christina Kellogg (Research Microbiologist, SPCMC) who will be studying the meta-genome of coral reefs in the park.

posted: 2017-05-25

Recent snapshot from camera one, which looks southward over Cowells Beach in Santa Cruz, California.Video cameras provide low-cost way to study processes that shape beaches

Sea-level rise and climate change could shrink beaches, which are valued for recreation and protection against storm waves. To learn more about processes affecting beaches, Shawn Harrison and Gerry Hatcher of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center installed two video cameras atop a Santa Cruz, California, hotel overlooking northern Monterey Bay. Every half hour, the cameras shoot video of the beach and ocean for 10 minutes. Using specialized software, Harrison extracts data about shoreline position, sandbar migration, rip-channel formation, wave run-up on the beach, alongshore current, nearshore bathymetry, and more. The information will improve simulations of shoreline change that communities can use to plan for the future. Two image types, updated every half hour, are posted at a snapshot (first video frame) and a time-averaged image (made by combining 1,200 frames). Eventually, USGS will install similar systems in more remote locations. Contact: Shawn Harrison,, 831-460-7549

posted: 2017-05-19

USGS Microbiologist to give invited plenary talk at ASM MICROBE 2017

Christina Kellogg, SPCMSC Research Microbiologist, was invited to convene a session at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) MICROBE 2017 conference on the topic of Microbes and Climate Change. Dr. Kellogg will also give an invited plenary talk in the session, titled "Coral Microbiology in a Changing Ocean." This talk will highlight cutting edge work done by other researchers as well as describe Dr. Kellogg's work cataloging baseline microbiomes of deep-sea coral species in an effort to provide a benchmark against which future anthropogenic and environmental change can be measured. ASM MICROBE 2017 takes place June 1–5, 2017 in New Orleans, LA.

posted: 2017-05-18

USGS researchers meet with Fire Island National Seashore management to continue collaborative project on beach recovery forecasting

Jennifer Miselis and Kat Wilson (scientists, St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center), Richard Snell (computer programmer, SPCMSC), and Erika Lentz (scientist, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center), will travel to Patchogue, New York, next week. The group will meet with Fire Island National Seashore personnel on May 23. The meeting will continue collaboration on a three-year project funded through the National Resource Preservation Program aiming to forecast beach recovery using probabilistic networks.

posted: 2017-05-18

SPCMSC Scientists conduct Beach Survey at Fire Island National Seashore

From May 23–26, St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center scientists Owen Brenner and Kat Wilson will conduct GPS monitoring surveys on Fire Island, New York, as part of the continuing efforts to assess post-Sandy beach recovery. Surveys of shorelines and beach profiles were first collected immediately prior to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and have been collected frequently in the four and a half years since. For more information on the Hurricane Sandy Supplemental Fire Island project, visit:

posted: 2017-05-18

Figure shows predicted shorelines on five beaches in 2100 with 1 meter of sea-level rise. This is Figure 3 from a new publication.Can beaches survive climate change?

That’s the question posed by Sean Vitousek (former USGS postdoc now with University of Illinois at Chicago) and USGS colleagues Patrick Barnard and Pat Limber in a paper the American Geophysical Union (AGU) invited them to contribute to its Earth Day Special Collection of Commentaries published in late April 2017. The authors note that sea-level rise driven by climate change is causing increased coastal flooding, beach erosion, cliff failure, and other problems around the world. Accelerated sea-level rise could threaten the very existence of natural beaches. They call for improved computer simulations of natural systems to provide the long-term predictions that planners need to develop adaptation strategies and enhance coastal resilience. The scientists’ recent modeling effort showed that by 2100 up to 67 percent of Southern California beaches could completely disappear without large-scale human intervention.
Contact: Patrick Barnard,, 831-460-7556

posted: 2017-05-17

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