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USGS surveys the southern Monterey Bay coast to study changing beaches
From September 12–14, scientists from the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center used all-terrain vehicles and small watercraft to map the sand on beaches and under the water in southern Monterey Bay.
The scientists will survey the area yearly to see how beaches gain or lose sand. These surveys add to twice-yearly surveys of the northern Monterey Bay coast underway since 2014. The scientists will conduct more frequent mapping to capture effects of large storms and other events, such as the closing of the Cemex sand mine in southern Monterey Bay, scheduled to occur by the end of 2020. Understanding long- and short-term impacts on the local sand supply can inform coastal planning. USGS research geologist Patrick Barnard was quoted in a September 20 Monterey County Weekly article about the recent survey.
The west coast of the United States is extremely complex and changeable because of tectonic activity, mountain building, and land subsidence. These active environments pose a major challenge for accurately assessing climate change impacts, since models were historically developed for more passive sandy coasts.
For a beach town like Santa Cruz, preserving beaches by mitigating coastal erosion is vital. Surveys conducted now and regularly in the future will help scientists understand the short- and long-term impacts of climate change, El Niño years, and sea-level rise on a populated and vulnerable coastline.