Tags: california | coast | erosion | el niño

California Coast Erosion Caused by El Nino is Worst in 150 Years

Image: California Coast Erosion Caused by El Nino is Worst in 150 Years

Sections of land are seen missing from coastal properties in Pacifica, California, on Jan. 26, 2016. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 15 Feb 2017 03:32 PM

California’s coast is seeing its worst erosion in 150 years, escalated by a recent El Nino weather pattern.

The unusually strong waves caused by the El Nino of 2015-2016 battered the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington, removing tons of sand from at least 29 beaches in those states, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Beach erosion on the West Coast was 76 percent above normal during the El Nino, a study by scientists at the University of California Santa Barbara and other institutions found, according to a news release from the National Science Foundation, which called the conditions "unprecedented."

"Infrequent and extreme events can be extremely damaging to coastal marine habitats and communities," David Garrison, a program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences, said in the release. "While this paper stresses the effect of waves and sediment transport on beach structure, organisms living on and in the sediment will also be profoundly affected."

Scientists and experts are worried that future El Ninos will have similar severe impacts, and that climate change will exacerbate the effects in ways that may not be recoverable, the LA Times reported. The environmental and economic impacts of such damage could be far-reaching, experts said.

“This is likely the kind of El Nino we may experience more in the future,” study author and Santa Cruz geologist Patrick Barnard said, according to the LA Times.

To gather the information needed, scientists made surface maps using laser technology and performed topographic surveys with the help of GPS technology and dune buggies. The technology enabled better collection of data than could happen during the last El Nino in 1997-1998, when GPS was newer and not widely used, according to the LA Times.

Dams built in Southern California’s rivers to prevent coastal homes from flooding have also held back sand and sediment that could help reverse the erosion, contributing to the problem. Those municipalities that rely on the beaches to bring in tourists may need to bring sand back to the beaches themselves to keep them palatable for tourists, the Times reported.

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California's coast is seeing its worst erosion in 150 years, escalated by a recent El Niño weather pattern.
california, coast, erosion, el niño
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2017-32-15
Wednesday, 15 Feb 2017 03:32 PM
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