Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An updated Elwha river mouth timelapse

A year or so ago I posted a timelapse of the Elwha River mouth using both historical aerial photography and Andy Ritchie's PlaneCam orthoimages of the Elwha system. In preparation for a few talks, and a paper in prep, and to help me wrap my brain around the changes we are seeing these days, I updated the timelapse a bit. Enjoy:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tracking shorelines

The map above motivates me. This is a screen grab from the NANOOS Beach and Shoreline Change site, showing shoreline monitoring sites in Washington State. Kudos to NANOOS for including data on shoreline change in their incredible site (which is a compendium of all things related to oceanography data) - but the map makes it clear that we in Washington State are dropping the ball when it comes to understanding trends related to shoreline morphology.

Proposed locations of shoreline monitoring on the Olympic Peninsula

As part of my program I've proposed and am developing a small scale shoreline monitoring program for the Olympic Peninsula. Why small-scale? Well because its just me, and this is a big area. But something is better than nothing. Working with a bunch of partners (Olympic National Park, the Quileute Tribe, the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center Natural Resources Program, the Quilayutte Valley School District, Pacific Coast Salmon Coalition, the North Pacific Coast Marine Resources Committee, US Coast Guard, the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the US Fish and Wildlife Service) I've been able to either start developing or collecting data on a bunch of the proposed sites in the map above.

The partnership with the QV School District, the Skills Center, the MRC and the Pacific Coast Salmon Coalition is particularly valuable because it has allowed us to get students involved:

Students surveying Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park

A growing body of evidence supports the idea that engagement in research experiences early in students' academic career provides positive benefits, so this is a great opportunity to use this program to support Olympic Peninsula students. Why do it at all though? Well - my primary motivation regarding monitoring shoreline morphology is that we expect shorelines to change in increasingly unusual ways due to climate change. Here, for example, is a schematic describing one model of how shorelines respond to sea level rise:

In general, we expect shorelines to move landward under rising seas, and this will likely be associated with steepening and coarsening of the beach. This has all sorts of ecological implications - but my primary motivation here is how that will change the beach's protective capacity. Beaches are barriers - protecting human communities from the ocean, and it is likely going to become more difficult for beaches to provide those buffering services to communities in the coming decades.

The figure above is from an analysis of climate-related vulnerabilities for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and is designed to show the potential change to the water level histogram (this is the distribution of all water levels that the coast experiences over a longer time period...like a few months or more) due to both sea level rise, storms and changes to the outer coast wave climate. The point is that under climate change projections, the upper part of the beach will come into contact with the ocean much more frequently, which could promote flooding and erosion.

However, one thing is already clear from working on the outer coast...beaches change dramatically all of the time:

Above, for example, are two beach profiles from Rialto Beach, one collected in the Fall of 2012 and the other in the spring of 2013. These (preliminary) data suggest that over the winter the beach built outwards by ~10 m! For those that know this coast this is hardly surprising, indeed there is significant beach change observable in the much shorter record captured by this time lapse video shot around Mosquito Creek (this was shot to document the removal of the Misawa Dock associated with the Tohoku tsunami debris). But characterizing the rates and patterns of change in advance is crucial to being able to pick out erosion signals that are unusual in the future.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Honolulu Fish Auction and...Ocean Sciences 2014 too

The vastness. The poster hall at Ocean Sciences 2014.

At the end of February I had the opportunity to travel to Honolulu for Ocean Sciences 2014, a massive international conference covering all topics related to oceanography and marine science. In addition to presenting a poster on work that I did as part of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe's climate change assessment, I also participated in a fantastic workshop on teaching ocean sciences at a 2-year college, attended special sessions by the authors of the most recent IPCC Assessment, and attended numerous talks on the latest and greatest science related to my work: Sea level rise, storm impacts, tsunami and coastal processes in particular.

I want that. The thriving marketplace for oceanography gizmos at the Ocean Sciences conference.

As it turns out, though, the most mind-blowing marine education I received on the trip happened after the conference ended. Very early on Saturday morning McHenry and I slipped out of our hotel and made our way down to Pier 38 where, every day except Sunday, the Honolulu fish auction is held. One of only two fish auctions in the United States, many of the fish landed in Honolulu pass through a refrigerated warehouse and are individually sold to the highest bidder. That's right - each individual fish is auctioned off one by one. Its not totally clear that it is open to the public, but we ended up wandering around without any issues to watch boats off-loading, fish being moved, tagged and sorted, buyers and auctioneers haggling over price, and the buyers taking their fish away to restaurants or wholesalers. We even had the chance to talk to a couple of the folks working the floor. It was an eye-opening experience...check out the photos:

The fleet

Tuna coming off the boat

A few weeks work

Ready for the transfer to the warehouse

A peak inside the auction house

McHenry and a multi thousand dollar tuna

Tracking the landings

The auction line

Its not ALL about tuna...but mostly

On the way to the grill

Other views:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Before and Afters

I love the visual perspective on changing coasts, and can't resist posting this one. Back when I worked for Surfrider Foundation I put together this little photo monitoring project for the Elwha (see page 6 here, for example). As part of the program a few sites were established in the Elwha estuary for repeat photography. A few days ago I took McHenry and Theo for a walk down on the nice new bar down at the river mouth:

and took the opportunity to snap some photos from one of the sites that we photographed back in 2004-2006. Here is the result:

A view of the estuary shot in February of 2005

The same view shot in February 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

An(other) update from Elwha

I recently had an opportunity to compile some thousands of individual photos taken from a site above the mouth of the Elwha River into a single timelapse - this collapses over a year of observations into two minutes. It is hard to watch - this is raw with all photos taken at night, during bad weather and during all phases of the tide, included. Despite that, though, it provides a nice view of the changes that have taken place at the river mouth over the past year. A WWU student is currently working on a cleaned up version of this perspective, which should be available in a few months.

Interesting patterns on the beach after the last survey a few days back. Notably, the most interesting changes are happening on the beach to the WEST of the river mouth (Line 132 above), which continues to accrete due to the transport of sand on to the beach face. The sand is also moving higher on to the beach there, and now reaches up to over 4 m above MLLW:

Grain Size photo from 12 February 2014 at 4.25 m elevation at Line 132.

even just a few months ago that elevation looked like this:

Grain size photo from 15 December 2013 at 4.25 m elevation at Line 132.

To the east of the river mouth at Line 164 the areas that I can access are no longer really beach - the river channel now cuts across that site such that I can no longer reach the outermost bars. You can see the profile truncated in the profile from 12 February - that is a river channel. You can also sort of make out the migration of the river channel back to the east that happened in December in the timelapse above, though you sort of have to look hard.

Finally, on the eastern part of the floodplain not much appears to be happening on the beach. There appears to be some sand moving around (there are pockets of it everywhere, especially down low on the terrace at a variety of locations), but not enough of it has moved high enough on to the beach face to really start inflating those profiles (though it does appear that erosion has slowed down at both Line 190 and 204. We are POSSIBLY seeing some finer grain size material moving in on the beach at Line 190:

Grain Size photo taken at 1.50 m elevation on the beach at Line 190 on 12 February 2014.

Though its worth noting that the main channel of the river now appears to be position just to the east of this site (approximately between Line 164 and 190) and is pointing east in the alongshore direction. In fact, there are new exposures of the former coarse low tide terrace in places that had been covered with new sediment for the past months, probably because river flow has excavated this new material and moved it further alongshore. The river itself may be transporting some of this sand up on to the beach. Additionally, this beach has seen pulses of fine material before, especially this time of year:

Grain size photo taken at 1.50 m elevation on the beach at Line 190 on 5 February 2013

Grain size photo taken at 1.50 m elevation on the beach at Line 190 on 14 February 2012

Monday, February 3, 2014

Restoration in fast forward

One of the more dramatic and large dedicated beach restorations is happening right now at Seahurst Park in Burien:


View Larger Map

Projects like these - in which an attempt is being made to more or less re-assemble the historic morphology of the shoreline, are a relatively new thing. They take quite a bit of effort - its a full-on earth moving process:

But the cost is likely worth it - the expectation is that these sorts of projects provide all sorts of benefit. I am particularly interested in how these sorts of projects work in terms of the beach's role as a barrier against the sea. As a result, I was able to work together with Steve Roemer at the City of Burien and Joe Weiss at the Puget Sound Skills Center to get a time lapse camera up on the north side of the project looking south. Some of the first photos came in over the holiday and are here:

There will be more to come on this one...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Glines Canyon Dam now invisible

In case you didn't notice the latest happenings on the Elwha River - the Glines Canyon Dam, while still a bit there, is now invisible. A blast a few days back (see John Gussman's footage of the blast here) took out the last remaining section of the dam visible to the web cam.

Before: Glines Canyon Dam Site on 26 January 2014

After: Glines Canyon Dam Site on 27 January 2014

The blast also lowered the river at the dam site, increasing the gradient of the river, and thereby increasing its erosive capacity. As a result there was an almost immediate uptick in turbidity downstream:

turbidity at the MacDonald Bridge gage on the Elwha River, 26-28 January 2014

Typically turbidity is closely linked to river flow, but in this case there was no increase in river flow - this turbidity was generated by the dam blast.

River discharge, MacDonald Bridge, 26-18 January 2014