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Science as art

This is an image produced from one of two video cameras, which were installed to overlook the coast at Main Beach in Santa Cruz, California. The cameras are part of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center’s Remote Sensing Coastal Change project. Every half hour during daylight hours, the cameras shoot video for 10 minutes. The camera system then processes the imagery it collects, to produce visualizations that highlight or track different pixel changes that occur throughout the 10-minute window.

As an example of the imagery produced, this is a time-averaged, or “timex,” image. It's an average of all frames taken over the 10-minute period, smoothing away surface waves and determining the location of persistent wave-breaking (indicative of shallow sandbars). The USGS will use these images to detect short-term, long-term, and seasonal changes in shoreline position, sandbar migration, rip-channel formation, wave run-up on the beach, and nearshore bathymetry.

View looks down on a sandy waterfront area with gentle waves and a dock running out into the water.
Santa Cruz Main Beach and boardwalk time-averaged image.

Monitoring the Northernmost Point in the U.S.

Point Barrow, Alaska, or Nuvuk, is the northernmost point in the United States. USGS has set up video cameras, mounted to the pole shown in the photos below, to study sediment movement and wave dynamics along this dynamic coastline. Photos credit: Dan Nowacki, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.

View the camera images and learn more: Using Video Imagery to Study Sediment Transport and Wave Dynamics: Nuvuk (Point Barrow)

View of a shoreline of soil near the ocean with wooden poles sitting atop a large berm.
Credit: Dan Nowacki, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.
Very gravelly shoreline with tire tracks and berms.
The large grain size is notable at this high-energy beach at Point Barrow, or Nuvuk, Alaska

 

Why the Ocean?

A person crouches over the water handling scientific equipment at dusk with rocks in the background
“The ocean is the closest I can get to an unexplored world, without going into space... I mean, I feel a deep connection to the ocean and its constant rhythms, but when I visit, there's a new discovery or appreciation every time. People should care about the ocean for the same reason we care about the air we breathe and the water we drink - it is an essential part of Life, and the conditions that make it possible everywhere on this planet. No matter where you live, you are impacted by the ocean."-Andy O’Neill, Oceanographer, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science CenterAndy loves the ocean because, “it reminds me that I am small, and the world around me is so vast, graceful, beautiful, and terrifying... So even on bad days when I get caught up in little slights, it remains rumbling and flowing, with forces I can't physically imagine - those little things mean nothing compared to that.”

 

SQUID-5

Equipment attached to a metal frame floats in the water on two buoys while dolphins frolic nearby.
SQUID-5 was developed by the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center Marine Facility (MarFac), SQUID-5 is a towed surface vehicle with an onboard Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and 5 downward-looking cameras with overlapping views of the seafloor. It was first field-tested in July of 2019 in the Florida Keys over a shallow-water coral reef. Here, some curious dolphins frolic nearby as SQUID-5 is towed from a boat.

Ocean engineer Gerry Hatcher, of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center (PCMSC), sits at a desk on board the USGS boat Sallenger (below). He and a team of scientists from PCMSC and sister team St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center are near Eastern Dry Rocks reef off the coast of Key West, Florida. Gerry is keeping notes while the special camera system that he invented and developed is towed in the water.

The system is called “SQUID-5” (Structure-from-Motion Quantitative Underwater Imaging Device with 5 cameras, shown at right). SQUID-5 is towed over an area of interest, in this case a coral reef ecosystem, to collect high-resolution georeferenced imagery that is used to make 3D maps of the seafloor.

These high-res maps allow the USGS to detect millimeter-scale changes in seafloor elevation and coral reef structure. This information can be used to help track the progress of restoration efforts being done by partners such as the NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary over the next two decades.

Learn more: SQUID-5 camera system and Remote Sensing Coastal Change project.

A man, wearing safety gear and holding a pen, sits at a work station on a boat with a folder open in front of him.

 

Heathy Coral Reefs

A healthy coral reef in the Tumon Bay Marine Preserve off Tumon, Guam, showing a number of different species of fish swimming over a high coral cover reef composed of a number of hard and soft coral species. Credit: Curt Storlazzi, USGS

Learn more: Coral Reef Project

An underwater photograph shows a school of brightly colored fish swim over corals.

Wildfire History in the Mud

In August of 2020, the enormous CZU wildfire complex consumed over 85,000 acres in San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, leaving scarred landscapes in the hilly region. Runoff from large rainstorms in the winter months carry contaminants from the soils within these burned-out forests. Forest fires and the fire retardants used to help control and extinguish them introduce chemicals into watersheds that can harm wildlife and contaminate drinking water. Research geologist Renee Takesue, of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, samples stream sediment in the lower parts of burned watersheds to measure concentrations of several kinds of contaminants following major storm runoff in late January 2021. Our team hopes to compare these with samples taken from the same watersheds after the fire. Samples must be collected before too much time has elapsed since the wildfires, before post-fire storms wash the burned material downstream.

Further down this page, is a photo of Renee sampling sediment in San Pablo Bay in 2019, to test for contaminents that may have washed downstream following the Nuns Fire of 2017.

Learn more: Landscape Response to Disturbance

A woman wearing a mask, hard hat, personal floatation device, and waders stands near a river.
Photo credit: Amy East, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.
A woman wearing a hard hat, personal floatation device, and waders kneels near a river taking a sample of mud.
Photo credit: Amy East, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.
A woman wearing a hard hat, personal floatation device, and waders kneels near a river taking a sample of mud.
Photo credit: Amy East, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.

 

Far out, man... when science becomes art

This is an image produced from one of two video cameras, which were installed to overlook the coast at Sunset State Beach in Watsonville, California. The cameras are part of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center’s Remote Sensing Coastal Change project.

Every half hour during daylight hours, the cameras shoot video for 10 minutes. The camera system then processes the imagery it collects, to produce visualizations that highlight or track different pixel changes that occur throughout the 10-minute window.

As an example of the imagery produced, this is a "variance" image from Camera 2, from November 19th, 2020. A “variance” image shows the standard deviation of pixel intensity throughout the video, and it is useful for determining how much variation or movement is occurring at a given location. A single image like this can show features that are not always obvious to the naked eye - like sandbar and rip-channel locations. Collecting such imagery over many months or a year or more enables researchers to see how these features change through time, and how big storms, king tides, and other extreme events influence and shape our coastal regions.

Visit the Camera 2 Variance image page (which changes every half hour during the daylight hours), or the Sunset State Beach web cam page to view all 5 image types produced by each of the two cameras installed on the coastal bluff. See if you can detect how the beach and nearshore features vary (or don't vary!) between the current view and this view from 11/19/20.

A dark image looking down from a vegetated coastal bluff at a sandy beach and the ocean.
Public domain.

 

Hooray for Sediment Cores!

Dr. Nora Nieminski is a research geologist and Mendenhall Fellow at the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California. She is pictured here, on board Marine Vessel Bold Horizon, with a piston core sample collected from the southern Cascadia subduction zone offshore of northern California/southern Oregon. The research cruise ran from September-October of 2019 as part of the USGS project, “Cascadia Subduction Zone Marine Geohazards.” The research is focused on characterizing offshore marine geohazards like tsunamis, earthquakes, and underwater landslides along this tectonic boundary, which is prone to megathrust earthquakes.

Once recovered, the cores were extruded and sectioned on deck. Dr. Nieminski is studying these cores to investigate sediment routing and storage along the Cascadia margin and to identify any structural evidence of past earthquake activity that may be present in the sediment.

A smiling woman in a hard hat and life jacket gives two-thumbs-up on the deck of a ship standing next to a sediment core tube.
Photo credit: Jenna Hill, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.

 

Ready to Roll!

The USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center's new inflatable boat equipped with a new, portable, single-beam echo sounder for shallow water surveys awaits deployment into the San Lorenzo River. The famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park's water log ride looms above.

A small inflatable boat sits on a towing platform with big wheels, on sand in front of an elevated amusement park ride.
Photo credit: Andrew Stevens, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.

Marine engineering technician Pete Dal Ferro sets up the CEESCOPE on the San Lorenzo River, right next to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park. The CEESCOPE collects bathymetric (depth) data and also records features of the subsurface. All the components are easy for one person to set up and operate, with GPS and an LCD touch screen. USGS scientists collect nearshore data in this region seasonally, to study sediment input and movement in and around Monterey Bay area beaches.

Learn more: Coastal Climate Impacts, and Climate check in our Santa Cruz backyard

A man wearing safety gear and a warm hat sits in a pontoon boat in very calm water setting up equipment, bridge in background.
Photo credit: Andrew Stevens, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.Learn more: Coastal Climate Impacts, and Climate check in our Santa Cruz backyard

Taking PPE to a whole new level

You have to be able to have a little fun when in the field! Diana McCandless, right, scientist from the Washington State Department of Ecology, hams it up on July 21, 2020, while prepping for a beach survey with USGS scientists Josh Logan (left) and Andy Ritchie (middle) from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. The multi-agency surveys help to define sediment transport pathways to study and define coastal changes at the mouth of the Columbia River at the border of Oregon and Washington. In this area, dams, stone jetties, navigation channels, and changes in upstream land use affect the sediment supply to beaches.

One person on an all-terrain vehicle and two standing near another, on a beach.
Photo credit: Andrew Stevens, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

Caution: Pedestrian Crossing??

Pete Dal Ferro and Andrew Stevens, both from the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center (PCMSC) in Santa Cruz, California, install a Vaisala WXT weather station in Grizzly Bay, east of San Pablo Bay and northeast of San Francisco. The weather station collects wind speed, temperature, air pressure, relative humidity, and rainfall, and data are transmitted to a web page in real time via a custom-built data logger and modem designed by PCMSC oceanographer Dan Nowacki. Other sensors installed in Grizzly and San Pablo Bays, collecting wave and current speed, water temperature, salinity, pressure, and more, can be used with data from this weather station to help gain a better understanding of the conditions that influence sediment movement through the Bays.

The weather station is installed on this structure which is called a "dolphin," in the middle of Grizzly Bay. Obviously, someone (not us!) long ago thought it woud be funny to install a "pedestrian crossing" sign!

Learn more: Sediment Transport in Coastal Environments

Two people install instruments atop a permanent mooring called a dolphin, large wooden pilings affixed in shallow water.
Photo credit: Sam McGill, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.Learn more: Sediment Transport in Coastal Environments

How Our Reefs Protect Us: Valuing the Benefits of U.S. Reefs

The degradation of coral reefs raises risks by increasing the exposure of coastal communities to flooding hazards during storms. The protective services of these natural defenses are not assessed in the same rigorous economic terms as artificial defenses, such as seawalls, and therefore often are not considered in decision-making. Here we combine engineering, ecologic, geospatial, social, and economic tools to provide a rigorous valuation of the coastal protection benefits of all U.S. coral reefs in the States of Hawaiʻi and Florida, the territories of Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The annual value of flood risk reduction provided by U.S. coral reefs is more than 18,000 lives and $1.805 billion in 2010 U.S. dollars. These data provide stakeholders and decision makers with spatially explicit, rigorous valuation of how, where, and when U.S. coral reefs provide critical coastal storm flood reduction benefits, and open up new opportunities to fund their protection and restoration. The overall goal is to ultimately reduce the risk to, and increase the resiliency of, U.S. coastal communities.

Learn more: The Value of U.S. Coral Reefs for Risk Reduction

Video Transcript
Learn more: The Value of U.S. Coral Reefs for Risk Reduction

 

The new face of fieldwork, 2020

Marine technician Dan Powers, from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center's Marine Facility (PCMSC MarFac), wears all the required personal protective equipment: bib waders, personal floatation device, and mask. He and MarFac engineering technician Pete Dal Ferro went out on Alviso Slough to retrieve and clean current meters that are secured to metal frames. The frames and instruments get pretty fouled-up with mud and vegetation in these shallow waters, requiring frequent cleanings to ensure that ongoing data collection remains valid.

A man stands on the bow of a small aluminum boat wearing bib waders, a personal floatation device, and a mask.
Photo credit: Pete Dal Ferro, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

What the skipper sees

Pristine field conditions on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta near Rio Vista, California! USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center skipper Pete Dal Ferro captured this view through the windshield of the PCMSC boat San Lorenzo.

View through the windshield of a boat on a calm bay looking out on calm waters, trees, and a mountain in distance.
Photo credit: Pete Dal Ferro, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, Public Domain

Scientists collect beach elevation data near Moss Landing, California

Left to right: USGS scientist Josh Logan, USGS contractor Babak Tehranirad, and University of California-Santa Cruz graduate student Rae Taylor-Burns collect beach elevation data near Moss Landing, California, with precision GPS units carried in their backpacks. Learn more about our mapping efforts in regions like this:

Three researchers walk on a beach on a clear day with blue sky and calm seas.
Photo credit: Alex Snyder, USGS, Public Domain

Long-term beach monitoring 

Goleta Beach in Santa Barbara experienced an unusual storm and large wave event in the Spring of 2014. Gaviota Pier, seen far off in the background, sustained heavy damage as did the restaurants on the pier and nearby. The USGS conducts seasonal surveys throught the year to see how the beaches are changing through time. Here, a USGS scientist navigates a personal watercraft equipped with GPS and sonar to measure seafloor depths near the beach. The GPS system enables the driver to follow a precise path and to revisit the same path in future surveys.

For more information, read about our project titled, “Dynamic coastlines along the western U.S.

A person on a personal watercraft navigates through waters near a coast with low cliffs and hills way off in background.
USGS scientist navigates the calm coastal waters near Goleta Beach, California.

Arctic coastal bluff photography

This past September, scientists used a small, remotely piloted aircraft system (UAS) to collect high-resolution natural color and thermal photographs over a narrow swath of the beach and elevated coastal bluffs of Barter Island, on Alaska's Arctic coastline. The photographs are precisely located using ground control targets placed and surveyed using GPS survey methods. The photographs are then post-processed into orthophotomosaics and digital elevation models using structure-from-motion photogrammetric techniques. Information such as shoreline and bluff edge location, ice-content and geology, and thermal characteristics of the bluffs will be derived from the images to provide data on rates, patterns, and processes of coastal erosion.

Read more about the Arctic field work in September 2019.

Read more about our project, “Climate impacts to Arctic coasts

An instrument with propellers, about the size of a large pizza box, stands on four legs on bare ground.
An remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) or drone, equipped with a camera, sits on the Arctic tundra of Barter Island, awaiting a radio signal to tell it to fly.

GPS Targets as Bear Toys?

View of a high coastal bluff with a square tarp marked with an X on the tundra and two people in background and beach below.
On Barter Island, on the north coast of Alaska, GPS targets are set out to precisely locate photographs taken from an unmanned aircraft system (UAS, or “drone”).
A sitting polar bear holds a square tarp in its mouth, seeming to treat it like a toy.
A curious polar bear picks up the GPS target tarp like a toy.
Small chunks of a shredded tarp lie on the frozen tundra near a coastal bluff.
After the polar bear had fun for a few minutes, the GPS target lies in pieces!

Read more about the Arctic field work in September 2019.

Read more about our project, “Climate impacts to Arctic coasts

 

Animation depicting seasonal cycles on Alaska's Arctic bluffs

In the spring, winter sea ice thaws and moves offshore leaving the coast exposed to increased wave action and relatively warm water temperatures that, when in contact with the bluff, erodes the toe of the bluff. Additionally, warm air temperatures during the spring and summer months thaw the upper layers of permafrost causing erosion or sloughing of the bluff face above the water line. In the fall, air temperatures begin to decrease again, but wave action and contact with the bluff continues; upper layers of the bluffs often topple over and erode in large chunks at this time. In late fall and early winter, sea ice reforms, once again protecting the coast from wave action. Learn more about the project, “Climate impacts to Arctic coasts.”

Time-lapse video of bluff erosion, Barter Island, Alaska: Summer 2019

Recorded June 1, 2019 - August 18, 2019Video shows a series of photos taken every hour during daylight hours in the summer of 2019. The camera looks westward along the coastal bluffs of Barter Island, located on Alaska’s North Slope. A pole on the bluff, visible in the first half of the video, once supported another video camera that was aimed at the shoreline to study wave and shoreline dynamics. This video starts on June 1st at -4°C (25° F) when the bluffs are still frozen, snow is on the ground, and the winter pack ice protects the permafrost cliffs from wave attack. By the end of June, the ice and snow are gone, temperatures often climb to 12°C (54° F), and waves begin to lap at the narrow beach below the bluffs. In mid-July, the now-thawed, upper active layer of the tundra begins to slough off onto the beach. By the end of July, waves accompanied with elevated storm-tides erode the lower part of the slope. Just days later, as erosion increases rapidly, the bluff supporting the camera gives way and the camera tumbles onto the beach. Despite its fall onto the muddy beach, the camera continued to record and was successfully recovered in order to create this video. The USGS is studying this highly erosive stretch of Arctic coastline to try to better understand the main driving forces behind the erosion and why erosion rates seem to be increasing. The increase is likely the result of several changing arctic conditions, including declining sea-ice extent, increasing summertime sea-surface temperature, rising sea level, and possible increases in storm power and corresponding wave action. More long-term work is needed to understand the interplay of these factors and how they drive changes in coastal erosion.

Wildfire History in the Mud

A woman kneels in a grassy area while taking a mud sample from the ground and placing it in a bag.
Marine geochemist Renee Takesue collects a sample of exposed mud in a marsh near Sonoma Creek, California. She will look here and in nearby San Pablo Bay for chemicals from the 2017 Nuns Wildfire that can harm wildlife. The stormy winter of 2018 may have transported these contaminants from the Sonoma Creek watershed into San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This information will help managers formulate strategies to reduce health risks to wildlife from wildfires.

Camera-on-camera

USGS Arctic researchers aimed a cellular-connected camera, used for tracking game, on another camera system as a means to keep an eye on the integrity of those video cameras “across the way.” What's funny is that the game cam went offline over the cold winter, and the scientists thought they'd lost it. Then suddenly, on April 15th, the game cam emailed an image! The one shown here is a bit more colorful and from a few days later, on April 19th. Now they know that #1 this game cam is still working (but just got a little frozen!) and #2 that their tower for mounting video cameras (used to observe and quantify coastal processes) is still standing and ready for summer installation.

Read more about our ongoing research about climate impacts to Arctic coasts, and how we use video imagery to study coastal change in Barter Island, Alaska.

A ground-level view filled mostly with snow, with an arctic bluff in the background that has a pole mounted on it.
First good image of the Arctic bluff in spring, taken April 15th, 2019 and sent from a self-resurrected, cellular-connected game cam mounted on the coastal permafrost bluff near the village of Kaktovik on Barter Island, northeast Alaska. The tower in the background is for mounting additional cameras to document coastal and sea-ice change over a summer season.
A ground-level view filled mostly with snow, with an arctic bluff in the background that has a pole mounted on it.
Stunning image from the game cam, taken April 19th, 2019. 

 

Drilling into permafrost on Alaska’s Arctic coast

On remote Barter Island, Alaska, Bruce Richmond (right) and Cordell Johnson drill into 500-foot-thick permafrost using a handheld drill with a 2-inch drill bit—a challenging task! It can take 3 hours to drill nearly 20 feet down. They collect samples of the frozen ground to better understand how climate change is affecting permafrost thaw on Alaska’s Arctic coast.

Photo looking up at a man wearing safety gear and cold weather clothing holding a big drill with puffy white clouds in the sky.

 

Web Cams

USGS oceanographer Shawn Harrison stands near video cameras on top of a building overlooking Isla Verde in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The cameras measure wave run-up and flooding as part of a study in response to Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Read more about the study and see dynamic photos from the video cameras.

A man stands near cameras mounted on a pole, on top of a building, with a beach in the background.

December 2018

Two USGS scientists from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center operate personal watercraft equipped with sonar and GPS along the beachfront off San Ysidro Creek, near Fernald Point in Montecito, California. They will use the data collected to create bathymetric (depth) maps. Collecting these data on a seasonal basis over many years provides a detailed picture of how the coastline reacts to changes in waves and sediment input. Results will be incorporated into computer models that forecast coastal change. Such models directly help California communities develop plans for how to protect their coastlines. This photo is from a mapping effort in March of 2018.

A coastline with trees on the beach berm on left, two people looking out at two jet skis, waves are gentle, sun is gleaming.
Photo Credit: Daniel Hoover, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center.

 

October 2018

"Peace at dusk"

A silhouette of a person on a high bluff overlooking the calm ocean at sunset.

USGS oceanographer Shawn Harrison stands on the coastal bluff of Barter Island, Alaska at sunset. Shawn and his fellow researchers are studying how the highly erosive bluff changes under the varied conditions experienced by this stretch of coastline. The knowledge gained will be used to improve computer-derived simulations of shoreline change, that in turn communities can use to plan for sea-level rise, changing storm patterns, and other threats to coasts. Credit: Ferdinand Oberle, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

To learn more, read about our projects: 

Climate impacts to Arctic coasts

Remote Sensing Coastal Change

 

September 2018

“Synchronized mapping”

USGS and Washington State Department of Ecology scientists are geared up and ready to start a topographic survey at the mouth of the Elwha River, using handheld computers and backpack-mounted GPS equipment. From left to right are Owen Warrick (USGS Volunteer), Jon Warrick (USGS), Andy Ritchie (USGS), Heather Weiner (WA State Dept. of Ecology), Diana McCandless (WA State Dept. of Ecology), Alice Henderson (WA State Dept. of Ecology), and Andrew Stevens (USGS). Learn more: USGS science supporting the Elwha River Restoration Project

People are wearing wet suits and waders and are holding hand-held computers and backpacks with equipment in them, smiling.
Credit: Andrew Stevens, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center.

July 2018

“The Long and Winding... River”

A winding strip of rainbow colors shows the bathymetry (depth) of the bed of the Mokelumne River just above its confluence with the San Joaquin in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta east of San Francisco Bay. USGS scientists mapped the channel as part of a project to assess the impact of invasive aquatic vegetation on sediment movement in the Delta. Orange colors are shallowest areas; blue colors are deepest. Note sand waves (rippled texture) produced by strong currents in the deep stretch left of center. Aerial photo, USGS National Map.

View from the sky of a landscape with a river running through it, and the river is winding back and forth.
Credit: Pete Dartnell, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center.

May 2018

“I spy with my little (eagle-) eye . . .”

After a successful beach survey and installation of remote-sensing cameras on a nearby island, scientists Shawn Harrison and Andrew Stevens spotted this bald eagle near the mouth of the Skagit River, Washington.

Bald eagle sits atop a leafless tree, overlooking a marshy inlet with farmland in the distance.
Credit: Andrew Stevens, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center.

February 2018

“Groovy Science!”

Giant grooves discovered on an earthquake fault offshore Costa Rica

Computer image of bedrock grooves (corrugations) derived from 3D seismic imaging offshore of Costa Rica. It shows the megathrust fault surface of the Cocos Plate diving beneath the Caribbean Plate, with the upper plate virtually removed. Some of the fault surface has long, straight corrugations; some appears more jumbled. Researchers stretched the image slightly to make the grooves easier to see. The view is roughly from Costa Rica looking offshore. Source: USGS and UC Santa Cruz. 

Read more on our news page and

Read the article published online by Nature Geoscience

3D computer image shows corrugations beneath the seafloor where tectonic plates move past each other.

December 2017

“Holy Smoke(r)s!”

Between Tonga and Samoa along the ocean floor sits the Niua volcano. Black smokers on this seafloor volcano spew out super-heated water and minerals. When they hit the cold seawater, solid minerals form and create these tall chimneys.

Watch video footage of black smokers on a seafloor volcano. [Download the MP4 video]

Length: 0:58

Footage courtesy of Schmidt Ocean Institute, ROV ROPOS

Video annotation and editing by Amy West, USGS Science Communications Contractor [Transcript]

(Photograph courtesy of Schmidt Ocean Institute, ROV ROPOS)

November 2017

A Current Immersion: Profile of USGS oceanographer Curt Storlazzi

Curt Storlazzi of the USGS explains how the water cycle pulled him into oceanography, and how his personal interests parallel his profession. Video by Amy West, USGS Science Communications Contractor [open in a new window]

Video Transcript