USGS: U.S. West Coast beach erosion severe

July 13, 2011 at 8:21 AM
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SANTA CRUZ, Calif., July 13 (UPI) -- A U.S. Geological Survey study concludes that last year's seasonal El Nino was responsible for mass erosion and could be an indicator of things to come.

The 2009-10 winter season along the U.S. West Coast was characterized by high wave energy and ocean water levels. This led to more beach erosion in coastal areas.

"The stormy conditions of the 2009-10 El Nino winter eroded the beaches to often unprecedented levels at sites throughout California and vulnerable sites in the Pacific Northwest," Patrick Barnard, USGS coastal geologist, said in a statement.

Winter wave energy in California resulted in so much erosion that highways collapsed. Along the Washington coast, as much as 345 feet of the beach eroded during the 2009-10 winter season.

USGS scientists said they expect waters in the central Pacific Ocean to warm in the coming decades. Combined with high sea levels brought on by global climate change, stronger winter storms are likely to contribute to higher rates of beach erosion along the U.S. West Coast.

The USGS led the study along with scientists in Oregon, California and Washington. Researchers in the study used data accumulated over 13 years from 148 miles of coastline.

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