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
As Hurricane Sandy moved northward along the U.S. Atlantic coast in October 2012, USGS scientists worked to determine where and how the storm’s waves and surge might dramatically reshape the beaches and dunes that stand between the storm and coastal developments....
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 ...
When storm-induced waves exceed the height of the dune, sand is transported over top of the dune and deposited inland. This process, known as overwash, causes a significant change in the landscape of the island.
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...
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
Track Hurricane Irma data and resources.
Track hurricane data and USGS resources.
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 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.
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.
Reducing risk where tectonic plates collide—U.S. Geological Survey subduction zone science plan
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) serves the Nation by providing reliable scientific information and tools to build resilience in communities exposed to subduction zone earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. Improving the application of USGS science to successfully reduce risk from these events relies on whole community efforts...Gomberg, Joan S.; Ludwig, Kristin A.; Bekins, Barbara; Brocher, Thomas M.; Brock, John C.; Brothers, Daniel; Chaytor, Jason D.; Frankel, Arthur; Geist, Eric L.; Haney, Matt; Hickman, Stephen H.; Leith, William S.; Roeloffs, Evelyn A.; Schulz, William H.; Sisson, Thomas W.; Wallace, Kristi; Watt, Janet; Wein, Anne
Reducing risk where tectonic plates collide
Most of the world’s earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanic eruptions are caused by the continuous motions of the many tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s outer shell. The most powerful of these natural hazards occur in subduction zones, where two plates collide and one is thrust beneath another. The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) “...Gomberg, Joan S.; Ludwig, Kristin A.
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 K.; 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 K.; 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.
High-resolution geophysical data collected along the Delmarva Peninsula, 2014, USGS Field Activity 2014-002-FA
The Delmarva Peninsula is a 220-kilometer-long headland, spit, and barrier island complex that was significantly affected by Hurricane Sandy. A U.S. Geological Survey cruise was conducted in the summer of 2014 to map the inner continental shelf of the Delmarva Peninsula using geophysical and sampling techniques to define the geologic framework...Pendleton, Elizabeth; Ackerman, Seth D.; Baldwin, Wayne E.; Danforth, William W.; Foster, David S.; Thieler, E. Robert; Brothers, Laura L.
Oceanographic and water-quality measurements collected south of Martha’s Vineyard, MA, 2014–2015
This web page provides access to oceanographic and water-quality observations made at seven sites near the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO) as part of National Science Foundation “Bottom Stress and the Generation of Vertical Vorticity Over the Inner Shelf” project. The objective was to measure bottom stress at several locations with...Montgomery, Ellyn T.; Sherwood, Christopher R.; Martini, Marinna A.; Trowbridge, Jannelle; Scully, M.; Brosnahan, Sandra M.
Low-altitude aerial imagery and related field observations associated with unmanned aerial systems (UAS) flights over Coast Guard Beach, Nauset Spit, Nauset Inlet, and Nauset Marsh, Cape Cod National Seashore, Eastham, Massachusetts on 1 March 2016
Low-altitude (approximately 120 meters above ground level) digital images were obtained from cameras mounted in a fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flown from the lawn adjacent to the Coast Guard Beach parking lot on 1 March, 2016. The UAV was a Skywalker X8 operated by Raptor Maps, Inc., contractors to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)....Sherwood, Christopher R.
Coastal bathymetry data collected in June 2014 from Fire Island, New York—The wilderness breach and shoreface
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, collected bathymetric data along the upper shoreface and within the wilderness breach at Fire Island, New York, in June 2014. The U.S. Geological Survey is involved in a post-Hurricane Sandy effort to map and monitor the...Nelson, Timothy R.; Miselis, Jennifer L.; Hapke, Cheryl J.; Wilson, Kathleen E.; Henderson, Rachel E.; Brenner, Owen T.; Reynolds, Billy J.; Hansen, Mark E.
Estimating time-dependent connectivity in marine systems
Hydrodynamic connectivity describes the sources and destinations of water parcels within a domain over a given time. When combined with biological models, it can be a powerful concept to explain the patterns of constituent dispersal within marine ecosystems. However, providing connectivity metrics for a given domain is a three-dimensional problem...Defne, Zafer; Ganju, Neil K.; Aretxabaleta, Alfredo
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
The 3DR Solo with GoPro Hero4 camera and gimbal. Coming to a survey area near you soon. Photo credit: Shawn Harrison, USGS. This photo was taken during USGS unmanned aerial systems (drone) pilot training. Two training sessions were held - one in February-March 2017 in Santa Cruz, California and the second in April 2017 in Gainesville, Florida. This photo originally was published in a Soundwaves story about the training: https://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2017/04/meetings.html
Estimated and measured ocean depths (bathymetry) from Madeira Beach, Florida. Each panel shows same geographic area. m = meters. Left: Snapshot transformed from original oblique camera view to overhead “map” view. Middle: Bathymetry estimated by applying cBathy algorithm to July 2017 video imagery. Right: Bathymetry measured with sonar in February 2017. Despite being based on data collected 5 months apart, both bathymetric images show similar depths and features: a sandbar about 140 meters cross-shore, deepening to a trough at 100 meters, and shallowing to the shoreline at 50 meters.
The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season has seen several hurricanes in a row during the months of August, September, and October. Follow along with this video to see satellite imagery of hurricanes and tropical storms during this time period.
The satellite imagery featured in this video was created using data distributed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC). These data are Surface Reflectance Climate Modeling Grid's (CMG) from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor onboard the NASA/NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) satellite (VNP09CMG) and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor onboard the Terra satellite (MOD09CMG). To learn more about these data and other data products distributed by the LP DAAC please visit https://lpdaac.usgs.gov/.
The LP DAAC is one of twelve NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) DAACs. It is located at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The LP DAAC ingests, archives, processes, and distributes NASA Earth science land data and information.
USGS research geophysicist Danny Brothers (right) and colleagues examine the surface of a sediment grab sample just pulled onto the deck of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship John P. Tully. The sample was collected from the top of a mud volcano north of the border between southeast Alaska and British Columbia. Expedition scientists are investigating the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault to better understand its history and the hazards it poses to coastal communities in the U.S. and Canada.
Scientists prepare to lower a piston corer off Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, to sample seafloor sediment near the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault. Expedition scientists are studying layers of sediment in the cores they collected to identify and determine ages of past earthquakes along the fault. This information will help them assess future threats to coastal communities in the U.S. and Canada.
Mary McGann (left, USGS) and Rachel Lauer (University of Calgary) sample pore fluids from sediment cores collected aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship John P. Tully along the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault offshore of southeast Alaska. Expedition scientists will use their findings to better understand the history of the fault and the hazards it poses to coastal communities in the U.S. and Canada.
USGS scientist Carol Reiss holding a hydrothermal vent sample. The poster in the background is a scientific rendering by Véronique Robigou (then at University of Washington) of a hydrothermal vent deposit with the submersible Alvin drawn to scale. This structure stood 45 meters above the seafloor when it was discovered by University of Washington researchers using Alvin in July 1991. It formed on the volcanically active Juan de Fuca (spreading) Ridge off the coast of the Pacific Northwest at a depth of 2,100 meters. Sulfide and silicate minerals precipitating from 330°C water circulating through the edifice and seafloor created the deposit.
USGS geologist Carol Reiss examining hydrothermal vent sample using hand lens. Sulfide-silicate minerals precipitate from 330°C mineral laden water venting along volcanically active spreading ridges.
Location 2. Multiple breaches were cut through the south end of San Jose Island, Texas, just north of Aransas Pass. The predicted probability of inundation was low, only 21%, however the probability of overwash was 87%. When water levels are elevated through several tidal cycles, as was likely the case during Hurricane Harvey, the dunes can continue to erode through time and may even erode completely.
Locatinon 3. At the north end of Matagorda Island, Texas, storm waves and surge inundated a low-lying section of the coastline causing a 340-meter wide breach. The predicted probability of inundation here was 90%
Location 5. Erosion of the beach in front of this developed area in Surfside, Texas, occurred as a result of elevated water levels during the storm. The vegetated dune at the bottom of the image was overwashed with sand being moved between and behind the oceanfront homes. The predicted probability of overwash here was 88%.
Location 1. Elevated water levels during Hurricane Harvey reached the base but did not overtop the ~5m high dunes in Mustang Island, Texas, leading to dune erosion. The predicted probability of dune erosion for this section of coast was 99%.
In the past decade, the development of the Barnett, Eagle Ford, Marcellus, and other shales has dominated the national consciousness regarding natural gas. But in Alaska, another form of natural gas has been the focus of research for decades—methane hydrate.
No, this EarthWord isn’t how natural gas quenches its thirst-it just sounds like it...
With hurricanes in the east and wildfires in the west, natural hazards have the potential to impact a majority of Americans every year. USGS science provides part of the foundation for emergency preparedness whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
Scientists from the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center mapped the offshore extent of the Mud Creek landslide on California’s Big Sur coast on July 11, 2017.
Living in the Outer Banks means living with the power of the sea. Jutting out from North Carolina’s coast into the Atlantic Ocean, this series of sandy barrier islands is particularly vulnerable to damage from major storms. In April 2016, another nor’easter was set to strike, but this time, Dare County officials were approached by their local weather forecaster with a new kind of prediction.
The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise, according to a new study released today in “Scientific Reports.”
U.S., Norwegian, and German scientists report back on the surprising results of an Arctic Ocean research expedition.
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.
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