Year 2, Month 8, Day 4: West Coastin’

The July 18 Monterey Herald (CA) reports on a study of Pacific coastal erosion:

The storms that battered the West Coast during the winter of 2009-10 eroded record chunks of shoreline, and more will likely disappear as the changing climate brings more such powerful storm seasons, scientists warn in a new study.

Pacific waves were 20 percent stronger on average than any year since 1997 and higher-than-usual sea levels drove them further inland, tearing away on average one-third m ore land in California.

The state’s beaches were “eroded to often unprecedented levels,” said Patrick Barnard, a coastal geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who led the research.

“It’s the kind of winter we may experience more frequently” as global temperatures rise, he said.

Nowhere along the West Coast was erosion more pronounced than at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. That winter, the Pacific encroached 184 feet inland, 75 percent more than in a typical season.

Maybe scientists should hold up a big flag when they have something important to say? Sent July 18:

When the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patrick Barnard says, “there’s no indication (of) a light at the end of the tunnel anytime soon, given the current trends that we’re observing,” he’s using language designed for careful and accurate communication. But anyone who understands “science-speak” will recognize the signs: Dr. Barnard is extremely alarmed. While his team’s research on the Pacific coastline’s future in a post-global-warming world has scary enough implications for communities on the ocean’s edge, when you consider that countless regional environments and ecosystems around the planet face similar disturbances, these are frightening findings indeed. Take the changes faced by Ocean Beach and multiply them a hundred thousand times, and you can begin to imagine the disruptions the coming climate chaos will bring. In their precise and unemotional way, the scientists are shouting out a warning: we must act now if we are to mitigate the storms of the coming centuries.

Warren Senders

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