Coastal and Marine Geology
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The USGS conducts a wide variety of research in coastal and marine environments to support scientific understanding, develop tools and technology, and provide maps, data, and other information needed by resource managers and decision-makers.Explore Our Science
The Estuarine Physical Response to Storms Project will assess the estuarine and adjacent wetland responses of three Atlantic lagoonal estuaries to major storm events such as Hurricane Sandy. The estuarine systems include the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary, the Chincoteague Bay, and Jamaica Bay, NY. Evaluations of sediment transport, geomorphic change, circulation, wetland...
A quantitative understanding of long- and short-term physical changes along wetland coastlines is required to support assessments of ecological and societal vulnerabilities to environmental change. The Barrier Island and Estuarine Wetland Physical Change Assessment project will integrate a wetland assessment with existing coastal-change hazard assessments for the adjacent dunes and beaches,...
Dam removal is an approach to river restoration that is becoming increasingly common. In most cases, dam removal is driven by considerations other than river restoration like dam safety, but how dam removal affects aquatic and riparian systems is of great interest in many dam removals. My work in this area has had two areas of focus thus far: 1) studies of vegetation and geomorphic change...
Scientists perform a range of studies that document, assess, and model coastal change, risk, and vulnerability. Studies include historical shoreline change, the geologic structure and history of coastal regions, sediment supply and transport, sea-level rise, and how extreme storm events affect rates and impacts of coastal change.
We study the distribution and hazard potential of coastal and submarine events such as earthquakes and submarine landslides and associated tsunami potential, hurricane induced coastal inundation, extreme storms, sea-level rise and oil and gas spills. We also model development to help evaluate and forecast coastal hazard probability and occurrence.
Our scientists conduct research studies focused on geologic mapping, sampling and understanding of mineral and energy resources and studies of the geologic setting and processes to inform renewable energy development offshore.
We bring together multidisciplinary expertise focused on developing tools and models to improve understanding of how healthy ecosystems function as well as how they respond to environmental changes and human impacts including ecosystem restoration. Research studies address coral reef, coastal wetland, benthic habitat and groundwater resources.
Over 160 of our scientists, technicians, and specialists responded to Hurricane Sandy by deploying field equipment and capturing information both before and after the storm. Our Sandy Science Plan identifies major research themes that will guide research to continue the support of the recovery activities.
Dune erosion occurs when storm surge elevates waves higher on the beach, allowing them to attack and erode the coastal dune. Dune erosion makes properties behind the dune more vulnerable to future storms and the potential foroverwash ...
CMGP conducts integrated mapping of the coastal and marine environment to define offshore hazards and sediment processes, support habitat and resource management, and monitor change. CMGP is an innovator in mapping and laboratory analyses, whose expertise is sought by other governmental agencies, educational institutions, and private companies.Find Data
This viewer provides visualization for and accessibility to USGS lidar data obtained following Hurricane Sandy (October 2012). Access and download data and publications that include the source lidar data and the coastal dune and shoreline data needed to examine coastal change and erosion hazards.
High-resolution geophysical data collected along the Delmarva Peninsula 2014, U.S. Geological Survey Field Activity 2014-002-FA
High-resolution geophysical data collected along the Delmarva Peninsula in 2014.
Information and products are organized within three coastal change hazard themes: 1) extreme storms, 2) shoreline change, and 3) sea-level rise. Each data item represents an individual research product, with some items grouped together as aggregates to show the breadth of the topic and make it easy to explore.
This portal contains U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) video and photography of the seafloor off of coastal California and Massachusetts, and aerial imagery of the coastline along segments of the Gulf of Mexico and mid-Atlantic coasts. These data were collected as part of several USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program Seafloor Mapping projects and Hurricane and Extreme Storm research.
Site provides access to Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP) data via Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards services; serving data to GeoMapApp and Virtual Ocean 2-D and 3-D earth browsing tools, for data integration, visualization and analysis; and metadata catalogs for data discovery.
GIS data files for map areas offshore of California are listed with a brief description, a small image, and links to the metadata files and the downloadable data files.
USGS creates geologic maps of coastal and submarine areas as well as complementary geospatial data products that can be used to assess resources, hazard potential, and support a wide range of model applications.Explore Our Interactive Maps
CSMP is a cooperative program to create a comprehensive coastal and marine geologic and habitat base map series for all of California's State waters. Data collected during this project reveal the seafloor offshore of the California coast in unprecedented detail and provide an ecosystem context for the effective management of this precious marine resource.
This portal is a “go to” source for maps related to ocean and coastal mapping. Information is organized by geography or region, by theme, and by the year data was published.
The legacy of contaminated sediments in Boston Harbor
Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have assembled a significant body of data that is now in a usable form. The USGS adopted an interdisciplinary approach to begin the pioneering effort at data rescue. This work involved collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the...Manheim, Frank T.
Louisiana's barrier islands: A vanishing resource
Louisiana's barrier islands are eroding so quickly that according to some estimates they will disappear by the end of this century. Although there is little human habitation on these islands, their erosion may have a severe impact on the environment landward of the barriers. As the islands disintegrate, the vast system of sheltered wetlands along...List, Jefferey H.
Sand and Gravel Resources of Puerto Rico
Many of Puerto Rico's beaches are eroding, and though rates of erosion vary, it is a major concern for the tourism and residential development industries. More than 85 percent of the population lives within 7 kilometers of the coast and they are heavily dependent on tourists that are attracted by the island's beaches and coral reefs. High-quality...Rodriguez, Rafael W.
Seafloor images refine petroleum exploration models
Acoustic mapping of the EEZ sea floor using GLORIA side-scan sonar tool includes the margins of the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Johnston Island. This decade-long program was undertaken in cooperation with the United Kingdom's Institute of Oceanographic Sciences at the Deacon Laboratory (now the Southampton Oceanography Centre).Twichell, David
Louisiana coastal wetlands: a resource at risk
Approximately half the Nation's original wetland habitats have been lost over the past 200 years. In part, this has been a result of natural evolutionary processes, but human activities, such as dredging wetlands for canals or draining and filling for agriculture, grazing, or development, share a large part of the responsibility for marsh habitat...Williams, S. Jeffress
Seafloor studies of Mamala Bay, Honolulu, Hawaii
No comprehensive study of the effects of disposal of dredge spoils has been conducted to determine if the environment has suffered. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has regularly dredged the shipping channels of Honolulu Harbor and Pearl Harbor for commercial and military purposes. The 5-year frequency for new dredging activity has led to...Torresan, Michael E.
Contaminant transport in Massachusetts Bay
Construction of a new treatment plant and outfall to clean up Boston Harbor is currently one of the world's largest public works projects, costing about $4 billion. There is concern about the long-term impact of contaminants on Massachusetts Bay and adjacent Gulf of Maine because these areas are used extensively for transportation, recreation,...Butman, Bradford
Observations and a linear model of water level in an interconnected inlet-bay system
A system of barrier islands and back-barrier bays occurs along southern Long Island, New York, and in many coastal areas worldwide. Characterizing the bay physical response to water level fluctuations is needed to understand flooding during extreme events and evaluate their relation to geomorphological changes. Offshore sea level is one of the...Aretxabaleta, Alfredo; Ganju, Neil Kamal; Butman, Bradford; Signell, Richard
Inner-shelf ocean dynamics and seafloor morphologic changes during Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy was one of the most destructive hurricanes in US history, making landfall on the New Jersey coast on Oct 30, 2012. Storm impacts included several barrier island breaches, massive coastal erosion, and flooding. While changes to the subaerial landscape are relatively easily observed, storm-induced changes to the adjacent shoreface...Warner, John C.; Schwab, William C.; List, Jeffrey; Safak, Ilgar; Liste, Maria; Baldwin, Wayne E.
Development of a coupled wave-flow-vegetation interaction model
Emergent and submerged vegetation can significantly affect coastal hydrodynamics. However, most deterministic numerical models do not take into account their influence on currents, waves, and turbulence. In this paper, we describe the implementation of a wave-flow-vegetation module into a Coupled-Ocean-Atmosphere-Wave-Sediment Transport (COAWST)...Beudin, Alexis; Kalra, Tarandeep; Ganju, Neil Kamal; Warner, John C.
Barrier island breach evolution: Alongshore transport and bay-ocean pressure gradient interactions
Physical processes controlling repeated openings and closures of a barrier island breach between a bay and the open ocean are studied using aerial photographs and atmospheric and hydrodynamic observations. The breach site is located on Pea Island along the Outer Banks, separating Pamlico Sound from the Atlantic Ocean. Wind direction was a major...Safak, Ilgar; Warner, John C.; List, Jeffrey
Biogeomorphic classification and images of shorebird nesting sites on the U.S. Atlantic coast
Atlantic coast piping plover (Charadrius melodus) nest sites are typically found on low-lying beach and dune systems, which respond rapidly to coastal processes like sediment overwash, inlet formation, and island migration that are sensitive to climate-related changes in storminess and the rate of sea-level rise. Data were obtained to understand...Sturdivant, Emily; Thieler, E. Robert; Zeigler, Sara; Winslow, Luke; Hines, Megan K.; Read, Jordan S.; Walker, Jordan I.
The Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP) shares a wide range of resources to help explain and illustrate scientific concepts, our scientific activities, expertise, technology, tools, and other educational resources. Through newsletters, multimedia resources, special events, and other products, you can learn more about the many ways our science supports the Nation.Dive In To CMGP Multimedia
Installing large boulders as rip rap to armor the shore against further erosion at Goleta Beach in Southern California. The tide is very low (negative).
Beach loss and armoring at Goleta Beach, very low (negative) tide
Exposed bedrock on the beach during very low (negative) tide at Isla Vista, California
Exposed bedrock on the beach, below the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Bedrock exposed at low tide along the beach at Isla Vista, California
A sonar-equipped personal watercraft mapping the bathymetry underwater near Santa Cruz, Calif.
USGS scientists setting up a lidar scanner on the pier to map the beach near Capitola, California.
USGS scientists readying a sonar-equipped boat to map the ocean bottom near Santa Cruz, Calif.
USGS scientist Daniel Hoover mapping the beach at Santa Cruz with a GPS-equipped backpack unit.
An atmospheric river, or narrow band of moisture moving from the tropics to the higher latitudes, hit California in early January and brought the first heavy rains of 2017. While these storms help a drought-stricken state, the onslaught of rain triggers floods and mudslides, and fills rising rivers with sediment and debris. Here the San Lorenzo River flows full and muddy past the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
Sandy beach and cliffs at Moss Landing, California
USGS research geologist Jon Warrick explains how his team applied structure-from-motion analysis to photos from the California Coastal Records Project to measure coastal change. Jon Warrick explains a “difference map” constructed from structure-in-motion data. Red areas indicate loss of material (erosion); blue areas show addition of material (deposition).
In the first ecosystem-wide study of changing sea depths at five large coral reef tracts in Florida, the Caribbean and Hawai’i, U.S. Geological Survey researchers found the sea floor is eroding in all five places, and the reefs cannot keep pace with sea level rise. As a result, coastal communities protected by the reefs are facing increased risks from storms, waves and erosion.
Meet USGS' newest laboratory!
Using a newly-developed computer model called “CoSMoS-COAST” (Coastal Storm Modeling System – Coastal One-line Assimilated Simulation Tool) scientists predict that with limited human intervention, 31 to 67 percent of Southern California beaches may become completely eroded (up to existing coastal infrastructure or sea-cliffs) by the year 2100 under scenarios of sea-level rise of one to two meters.
Hours before Japan was struck by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and the ensuing catastrophic tsunami, John Schelling spoke at a public meeting in the coastal community of Oceans Shores, Washington, about preparing for tsunami hazards. The few dozen people attending the meeting went home that evening and watched in horror as the events in Japan unfolded.
In a study released today, U.S. Geological Survey scientists and their colleagues document how the 2015-16 winter featured one of the most powerful El Niño climate events of the last 145 years.
A recent interpretive review of scientific literature performed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Rochester sheds light on the interactions of gas hydrates and climate.
Boulder corals in the waters of Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles from Key West, contain evidence that confirms a centuries-old sea temperature cycle linked to rains, droughts and hurricanes.
If coastal salt marshes are like savings accounts, with sediment as the principal, all eight Atlantic and Pacific coast salt marshes studied are "in the red," researchers found.
The U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Guy Gelfenbaum as the new director of their Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California Gelfenbaum succeeds Dr. Robert Rosenbauer who held the position for the past six years. Rosenbauer is retiring to a Scientist Emeritus position.
On January 13, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey will be working on the beach in Santa Cruz at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Using a sonar-equipped boat and personal watercraft, they will be surveying the beach and the nearby ocean bottom to compile a three-dimensional map of how the beach changed during storms that struck this week.
Coastal zone research projects will help managers protect developed areas' beach dunes, which are vital to resilient communities, ecosystems and economies.
Residents should not be alarmed to witness a low-flying helicopter over the eastern Mojave Desert starting around November 14.
Coastal and marine geology expertise provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and usable information.Learn About CMGP