Category Archives: Features

$21 million Beach Replenishment Plan Moves Forward, Carlsbad Beach, CA


By Nathan Scharn

The City Council has decided to use $65,000 for a regional project that would replenish sand on county beaches. The San Diego Association of Governments, the region’s planning agency, is handling most of the work. The city money will be used to monitor the project’s biological effects on the shoreline, manage construction and acquire permits.

The replenishment project is in its second phase. The first was completed in 2001 and placed nearly 2.1 million cubic yards of sand on county beaches.

The $21 million second phase is mostly covered by a $19 million grant from the state Department of Boating and Waterways. The rest will be split proportionally between Imperial Beach, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside.

The second phase will add between 1.8 and 2.7 million cubic yards of sand on the beaches.


Carlsbad set aside $1.5 million for the second phase in 2007, and still has $1.3 million of that to contribute for future phases, a staff report said. Last week’s move brings the total Carlsbad contribution for the current replenishment project to about $180,000.

The replenishment project is in its planning stages, and the new sand isn’t expected to hit beaches until 2012.

The sand would come from three offshore dredging sites.

Original Article

Thousands of Dead Fish Wash Ashore Florida’s Beaches


Excerpt from CNN

Thousands of dead fish washed ashore on a beach at Sebastian Inlet State Park in Florida. A similar incident happened in a Port Orange creek last month.

This follows similar incidents where large schools of fish were found lifeless on beaches in Arkansas, Maryland – two million fish were found dead on shores in Chesapeake Bay- and New Zealand in January. Only last month thousands of dead fish were found floating in a warm creek in Port Orange, Florida.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists are in the midst of carrying out tests on water samples but they do not suspect that chemicals or cold temperatures are to blame. They believe a lack of oxygen resulted in the deaths of thousands of menhaden fish.

FWC biologist, Kelli O’Donnell, said: ‘Just because there’s such a large school of them, they use up the oxygen really quickly, and because they are coming closer to shore, there’s not as high of a water turnover rate sometimes when you’re in an area with not as much tidal flow.

The officials say this type of fish is especially prone to dying from a lack of oxygen when they swim closer to shore in such large numbers.

CNN Video

Geographer Recreates The Great Louisiana Hurricane of 1812

1812 Hurricane
Image Source: Mock, C.J., M. Chenoweth, I. Altamirano , M.D. Rodgers, and R. García-Herrera. The Great New Orleans Hurricane of 1812. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 91: 1653-1663.

Excerpt from the University of South Carolina

Nearly 200 years before Hurricane Katrina, a major storm hit the coast of Louisiana just west of New Orleans. Because the War of 1812 was simultaneously raging, the hurricane’s strength, direction and other historically significant details were quickly forgotten or never recorded.

But a University of South Carolina geographer has reconstructed the storm, using maritime records, and has uncovered new information about its intensity, how it was formed and the track it took.

Dr. Cary Mock’s account of the “Great Louisiana Hurricane of 1812” appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American Meteorological Society, a top journal for meteorological research.

“It was a lost event, dwarfed by history itself,” said Mock, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Louisiana was just in possession by the United States at the time, having been purchased from France only years before, and was isolated from the press.”

Mock says historians have long known that a hurricane hit New Orleans on Aug. 19, 1812, but they didn’t know the meteorological details about the storm.

“Hurricane Katrina is not the worst-case scenario for New Orleans, as its strongest winds were over water east of the eye,” said Mock. “The 1812 hurricane was the closest to the city, passing just to the west. It wasn’t as big as Katrina, but it was stronger at landfall, probably a mid-three or four category hurricane in terms of winds.”

Detailed information about past hurricanes is critical to helping climatologists today forecast and track hurricanes. But until recently, little was known of hurricanes that occurred before the late 19th century, when weather instrumentation and record keeping became more sophisticated and standardized. Mock’s research has shed light on much of the nation’s hurricane history that has remained hidden for centuries.

“A hurricane like the one in August 1812 would rank among the worst Louisiana hurricanes in dollar damage if it occurred today,” said Mock. “Hurricane Betsey was 100 miles to the west. Katrina was to the east. A 1915 hurricane came from the South. By knowing the track and intensity, as well as storm surge, of the August 1812 hurricane, we have another worst-case-scenario benchmark for hurricanes. If a hurricane like it happened today, and it could happen, it would mean absolute devastation.”

Mock has spent the last decade conducting research and creating a history of hurricanes and severe weather of the Eastern U.S. that dates back hundreds of years. Using newspapers, plantation records, diaries and ship logs, he has created a database that gives scientists the longitudinal data they’ve lacked. His research has been funded by nearly $700,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Mock began researching the August 1812 hurricane along with other early Louisiana hurricanes in 2006. It took 18 months for him to reconstruct the 1812 storm’s complete track.

Newspaper accounts, which included five from Louisiana and 17 from other states, described hourly timing of the storm’s impact, wind direction and intensity, rainfall, tide height and damage to trees and buildings.

The Orleans Gazette description of the impact of storm surge on the levees is one example:

“The levee almost entirely destroyed; the beach covered from fragments of vessels, merchandize, trunks, and here and there the eye falling on a mangled corpse. In short, what a few hours before was life and property, presented to the astonished spectator only death and ruin,” reported the newspaper.

The environmental conditions of the Louisiana coast were different in 1812; the sea level was lower, elevation of the city was higher and the expanse of the wetlands far greater. These conditions would have reduced the storm surge by at least several feet, says Mock.

Some of the most valuable sources to Mock’s research were maritime records, which include ship logbooks and ship protests, records submitted by ship captains to notaries detailing damage sustained to goods as a result of weather. Ship logs, kept hour by hour, include data about wind scale, wind direction and barometric pressure.

Because of the war, England bolstered its naval presence, providing Mock, the first academic researcher to conduct historical maritime climate research, with a bounty of records to help him recreate the storm’s path and intensity.

“The British Royal Navy enforced a blockade of American ports during the War of 1812,” said Mock. “The logbooks for ships located in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea had all sorts of valuable information.”

In addition to 12 British Navy logbooks, he was able to use information from logbooks of the USS Enterprise and another from an American merchant vessel. Ship protest records from the New Orleans Notarial Archives provided Mock with some surprising contributions.

“I was initially pretty pessimistic on what I would find in the ship protests,” said Mock. “I thought I’d find a few scraps and be in and out in two days. I was wrong. I found a trove of material and ended up going back eight times.”

Archivists presented Mock with upwards of 100 books for every year, each 800 pages in length and none indexed with the word hurricane. After scouring the records, Mock uncovered nearly 50 useful items related to the 1812 hurricane, including accounts from the schooner, Rebecca, which described the storm in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico in a protest that was filed with notary Marc Lafitte.

It described a 4 p.m. heavy gale that increased to a perfect hurricane wind, with the shifting of winds by noon the next day. The shift of winds from the northeast to the northwest told Mock that the storm track passed to the east of the Rebecca.

Using the logs and protests, Mock was able to correlate the precise location of ships with the hourly weather and create a map of the storm’s path through the Gulf of Mexico.

“Its initial approach was toward Mississippi, but then it turned northwest toward Louisiana as it approached landfall in the afternoon on Aug. 19,” Mock said. “The USS Enterprise had the most detailed wind observations at New Orleans. A change in winds to the southwest around local midnight tells me that the storm center skimmed as little as five kilometers to the west of New Orleans.”

To further understand the hurricane’s formation and dissipation, Mock reviewed records stretching as far north as Ohio and east to South Carolina. Included among them were meteorological records by James Kershaw in Camden, S.C., which are part of the collections of USC’s South Caroliniana Library.

“I wanted to collect data from a wide area to understand patterns, pressure systems and the very nature of the 1812 hurricane,” said Mock. “A better understanding of hurricanes of the past for a wide area provides a better understanding of hurricane formation and their tracks in the future.”

Beach Gulf of Mexico, Ms
Waveland beach, located in Hancock County, Mississippi, on the Gulf of Mexico. It is part of the Gulfport–Biloxi area. Photo Source: T. Effendi.

Original Article

Pollutants Threaten Mexico’s Coast: Study

Yucatan Coast
Yucatan Coast


Pharmaceuticals, pesticides, chemical run-off from highways and many other pollutants infiltrate the giant aquifer under Mexico’s “Riviera Maya” coast, a new study shows.

The report published in the journal Environmental Pollution argues that the waste contaminates a vast labyrinth of water-filled caves under the popular tourist destination on the Yucatan Peninsula.

The wastes contaminate a vast labyrinth of water-filled caves under the popular tourist destination on the Yucatan Peninsula. The polluted water flows through the caves and into the Caribbean Sea. Land-sourced pollution may have contributed, along with overfishing, coral diseases, and climate change, to the loss since 1990 of up to 50% of corals on the reefs off the region’s coast.

And, with a 10-fold increase in population through 2030 expected, the problems are likely to worsen, according to research published February 6 in the journal Environmental Pollution.

“These findings clearly underline the need for monitoring systems to pin-point where these aquifer pollutants are coming from,” says Trent University Prof. Chris D. Metcalfe, Senior Research Fellow of the United Nations University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).

“As well, prevention and mitigation measures are needed to ensure that expanding development does not damage the marine environment and human health and, in turn, the region’s tourism-based economy.”

The researchers concluded that illicit drugs, pharmaceuticals and personal care products found in the groundwater at four of the five locations originated from domestic sewage.

The illicit drugs identified were cocaine and its major post-digestion “metabolite” chemical, benzoylecgonine.

Also found were caffeine and a metabolite of nicotine and the ingredients of personal care products such as:

– Triclosan (an anti-bacterial agent used mainly in toothpaste, cleansers, and hand sanitizers);
– Synthetic musks (used in perfumes, deodorants, etc.);
– Non-prescription painkillers acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

The researchers point to pit latrines, septic tanks and leaking sewer lines as the pollution’s likeliest points of origin, noting that just one-third of the state is served by municipal wastewater treatment systems.

Samples drawn near a golf course on a seaside resort, pointed to pesticide applications as another contamination source.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) pollution, meanwhile, likely entered the groundwater as runoff from highways, parking lots, airport tarmac, and other solid surfaces.

Reverse osmosis systems for treating drinking water are widely used in the Riviera Maya, “but this technology is unlikely to remove all micro-contaminants,” the study says.

While the levels of pollution found are not considered a health threat today, “the data provided in this study raise some concerns about the potential for human exposure from the consumption of contaminated drinking water.”

The researchers note the area has “a general lack of expertise and equipment for monitoring or tracking sources of pollution,” and “few administrative links between those responsible for water and coastal management and the labs that generate the (monitoring) data.”

They recommend:

– Impermeable liners installed beneath golf courses and other areas that are extensively covered with turf to restrict the leaching of contaminants, nutrients and pathogens;
– Lined and impermeable drainage canals, retention ponds and treatment systems to deal with runoff in areas where liners have been installed;
– Adequate wastewater treatment infrastructure;
– A halt to injections of treated sewage into saltwater below the freshwater aquifer;
– Measures to avoid aquifer contamination from hard surface runoff;
– An integrated approach to coastal zone management; and
– Protection of all remaining mangroves, which buffer coastal areas from pollution.

They warn too that a combination of sea-level rise and over-extraction of freshwater contributes to saltwater intrusion into the aquifers, posing a threat to the region’s freshwater quality and availability.

Without integrated approaches to protecting and managing the aquifer, “the tourism-based economy of the Maya Riviera region will not be sustainable over the medium to long term,” the researchers conclude.

They deployed two types of passive sampling devices in five locations at depths of 1.5 to 10.5 meters to sample groundwater flowing under the area at a rate of 0.5 to 2.5 km per day to measure concentrations of contaminants and determine possible sources. The freshwater in these aquifers forms a distinct lens on top of intruding salt water. The two water layers meet and mix in these flooded cave systems, which extend 8 to 12 km inland.

Yucatan Cave
The Maya believed natural wells, such as the Xkeken cenote in Mexico’s Yucatan, led to the underworld. Photo and Captions: John Stanmeyer / National Geographic

The area’s highly permeable geology, characterized by remarkable sinkholes offering access to the groundwater cave systems, makes the peninsula very susceptible to contamination.

“Diving down a sinkhole into these flooded cave systems was a truly unique experience, and slightly terrifying for someone diving in a cave for the first time,” says Ms. van Lavieren, a programme officer at UNU-INWEH and trained rescue diver. “It is hard to imagine the actual size and shape of these cave systems without actually being in them. Thankfully, we were helped by experienced divers in the area to deploy and collect the passive samplers.”

Original Article

Cyclone Adds to Barrier Reef’s Flood Woes

Coral Reef
An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef, between Cairns and Townsville, Australia. Photo Source: Biology Encyclopedia

By Matt Siegel, AFP

Hammered by a monster cyclone just weeks after flooding spewed toxic waste into its pristine waters, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could face a slow recovery due to climate change, experts warn.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi, a top-category storm, ripped through Australia’s northeast tourist coast Thursday, levelling houses and decimating crops as it hit land near the city of Cairns, gateway to the Reef.

Though it is too early to assess the extent of the damage, marine experts said the sprawling coral structure was bound to have been harmed by Yasi’s blistering 290 kilometre (180 mile) per hour winds.

“Cyclones do damage reefs,” Nick Graham, a senior research fellow at James Cook University, told AFP.

“They tend to be be particularly damaging in shallow waters, so they can break corals and kill areas of live coral, so you get a reduction of coral cover…. And that then can have a knock-on effect,” Graham said.

The world’s largest living organism, which stretches for 345,000 square kilometres (133,000 square miles) off Australia’s northeast coast, was already suffering after last month’s record flooding washed a mucky cocktail of debris, sediment, pesticides and other run-off out to sea.

Storms such as Yasi have the power to reduce reefs to rubble and wreak severe damage on living corals.

Smashed fragments have already begun washing up on Australian beaches, according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, who estimate that recovery could take 10 years.

“Cyclones are regular events and do affect the coral reef ecosystem dramatically,” said the authority’s chairman Russell Reichelt.
“However, they tend to be localised to a specific area, compared to other large-scale effects such as mass coral bleaching caused by climate change.”

Cyclones are a fact of life on the reef, there were 55 between 1969 and 1997 according to a recent study, but warming and acidification of the ocean linked to climate change have both increased their frequency and left corals more vulnerable.

“What normally would have recovered in the past in many other places in the world takes a long time because the reefs are not optimal; they don’t have a lot of resilience,” said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldenburg, Director of Queensland University’s Global Change Institute.

“The second thing that is happening is that as we heat the oceans through global warming, we are increasing the frequency of mega cyclones like Yasi…. which potentially, given (the) circumstances, can have really big impacts on coral reefs, reducing their ability to bounce back.”

Coral growth has slowed markedly on the reef since 1990 and parts of it have suffered severe bleaching due to rising sea temperatures and acidity that kill its plant-like organisms, leaving just the white limestone skeleton.

Overall, both this and cyclone damage are symptoms of worsening and dangerous climate change, said John Merson, from the University of New South Wales.

“I think probably more damage is being done to the reef by the rising temperature in the ocean which is causing the cyclone, as well as the reef to be damaged,” said Merson.

“The other question is the complete lack of attention being given to the fact that we have a category five cyclone because we have climate change, yet we completely ignore this factor in the whole thing.

“The same thing, the heating of the water, is going to increase coral bleaching which will knock out the reef in the long term anyway.”

Original Article

Once Again Rescuers Struggle to Save Beached Whales, New Zealand

New Zealand Beached Whales

Whales stranded in New Zealand refloat themselves

By The Associated Press

Sixty-six survivors of a pod of 80 pilot whales that beached in New Zealand freed themselves and swam back to sea during a high tide, rescuers said on Saturday.

Fourteen of the pod were unable to be saved and had died, Conservation Department spokeswoman Trish Grant said.

The whales came ashore at Golden Bay north of the city of Nelson on the tip of South Island on Friday afternoon.

About 100 rescuers had been unable to refloat the whales before darkness fell Friday night. The rescuers set up camp nearby with plans to try again at first light.

Grant said the rescuers returned to the site of the stranding Saturday morning to find the whales had gone. It appeared a high tide around midnight had allowed the stranded whales to free themselves.

“We don’t know whether they have managed to swim safely out to sea or whether they may have stranded somewhere else along the coast,” she said. “Some, even though they are refloated, do wash up dead later on because they’ve been through such an ordeal so they are considerably weakened by it.”

Pilot whales are about 13 to 20 feet (four meters to six meters) long and are the most common species of whale in New Zealand waters.

Whale strandings are commonplace in New Zealand. Last month 24 pilot whales died after stranding on the North Island. In December 2009, more than 120 whales died in two separate beachings near Golden Bay and on the east coast of North Island.

Original Article

Rescuers Struggle to Save Beached Whales, New Zealand

By The Associated Press

Rescuers struggled to save scores of pilot whales after 80 beached themselves in New Zealand on Friday. By evening, nine had died and others were not expected to last the night, conservation officials said.

An initial group of 30 whales had beached at Golden Bay, near the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, and more among their pod were coming in to shore when rescuers arrived. The rescuers managed to turn away four whales, but another 50 hit the beach, Conservation Department spokeswoman Trish Grant said.

More than 100 rescuers, including New Zealand and overseas tourists, tried to keep the whales cool by dousing them with sea water during the late afternoon and evening on Friday.

Nine died and grave fears were held for many of the others because unfavorable tides meant there was no hope of returning them to the sea before Saturday, Grant said.

“It’s likely that more will die overnight because stranding is quite an ordeal for them, it’s stressful,” Grant said. “But also, some just get drowned, they just can’t get into an upright position as the water comes and they can’t breathe.”

Staying by the whales in the dark was too dangerous and rescuers would not likely be called in until the morning, she said.
“We’d be optimistic that there’s surviving whales tomorrow that we can refloat,” she said.

Whale strandings are commonplace in New Zealand. Last month 24 pilot whales died after stranding in the North Island. In December 2009, more than 120 whales died in two separate beachings near Golden Bay and on the east coast of North Island.

Original Article

14 Beached Whales Saved, NZ, in Coastal Care

80 More Whales Stranded On Beach, NZ, in Coastal Care

58 Whales Stranded On Beach, NZ, in Coastal Care

Jamaica’s Land Reclamation and Coral reefs Damages

Historic Falmouth Port, Jamaica. Photo source: ©© Jack at Wikipedia
For the past 3 years, Royal Caribbean has been leading an initiative in collaboration with the Port Authority of Jamaica to create a brand new cruise port of call: “Historic Falmouth Jamaica”. The port is located on the North coast of Jamaica midway between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. It is currently under construction and is designed to accommodate two large ships simultaneously. Locals call the coral-ringed lagoon on the north coast of Jamaica Glistening Waters. As night falls, bioluminescent plankton light the shallows. Oyster Bay is believed to be one of only four lagoons in the world where such a spectacle occurs.


The problem-plagued Historic Falmouth Port has been plunged into a fresh round of controversy as green lobbyists are insisting that 20 hectares of coral and seagrass cover have been damaged due to the development.

At the same time, the environment advocates say the corals form a part of the material dredged from the harbour that is being used to reclaim lands in the area, as part of the $7.5-billion project…

Read Full Article, The Jamaica Observer

Biologists Cite Need for Critical Data to Determine Ecological Consequences

Gulf Oil Spill
Photo Source: AP

Excerpt from The University Of Florida

Twenty years after biologists attempted to determine the ecological damages to marine life from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, scientists dealing with the BP disaster find themselves with the same problem: the lack of critical data to determine the ecological consequences of human-induced environmental disasters, a University of Florida researcher said.

Writing in the Feb. 4 issue of the journal Science, Karen A. Bjorndal, a University of Florida biology professor and director of the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, and other biologists said the United States needs “strategic national research plans for key marine species and ecosystems based on evaluation of cause and effect and on integrated monitoring of abundance and demographic traits.”

“It is sad to see that we are in the same place now,” said Bjorndal, adding that not much has changed since the Valdez oil spill when it comes to getting the data needed to assess and restore a marine ecosystem after an environmental disaster. She hopes it will provide an impetus for action.

“We know how to create these research plans, what is needed now is the political will and leadership to do so,” she wrote.

“Achieving mandated recovery goals depends on understanding both population trends and the demographic processes that drive those trends,” Bjorndal’s article states.

Her team argues it “is not too late to invest funds from BP to support teams of experts to develop effective strategic plans that identify, prioritize and provide methodologies for collecting essential data.”

The team identified seven elements that need to be included in most of the plans.

“In the wake of the BP oil spill, the need for this policy shift is as clear as it is compelling. The largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history should provide the impetus and opportunity to effect this policy shift.” Bjorndal wrote in her article.

Original Article

Pacific Northwest warned of climate change dangers


By Allan Dowd, Reuters

Washington state and the province of British Columbia launched a joint effort on Wednesday to warn residents of North America’s Pacific Northwest about the danger that climate change poses to coastal communities.

Officials say they hope that by increasing public awareness about issues such as rising sea levels they can revive flagging support for fighting global warming in the neighboring U.S. state and Canadian province.

“People need to understand what the impacts (of climate change) are,” said Ted Sturdevant, director of the Washington Department of Ecology, warning that the issue is already effecting the coastal region.

Sturdevant said science about climate change has become “politicized” in the eyes of the public, and officials have to do a better job communicating what is known.

Washington and British Columbia are members of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a coalition of seven western states and four provinces that have agreed to launch a regional carbon cap-and-trade system.

The WCI, which is spearheaded by California, was launched because of concerns the U.S. and Canadian federal governments were not doing enough to fight climate change.

But the regional group has had its own struggles, with only three provinces , British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario, and two states, California and New Mexico, expected to be ready when the WCI’s carbon-trading market begins next year.

British Columbia remains committed to the Western Climate Initiative and the development of a carbon cap-and-trade system that is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said John Yap, the province’s climate minister.

Sturdevant acknowledged that while the WCI was developed around the idea of building a carbon-trading market, it is having look at a “portfolio” of ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Efforts to develop a national trading system in the United States have stalled, and Ottawa remains cool to the idea, saying Canada’s actions must tied to what is done in the United States, its biggest trading partner.

Long Beach Tofino
Long Beach Vancouver Island is one of the best beaches in all of British Columbia. This six-mile-long beach on Vancouver Island’s southwest coast is actually connected to a series of other beaches, and it helps to comprise the Pacific Rim National Park.

Original Article

Sea Level Rise on The B.C Coast, Ministry Of Environment, Canada

The Trouble With Seawalls, Tofino, in Coastal Care