Coastal Flooding in Imperial Beach

The surf tripled in size on Saturday March 1st and by the end of the day was breaking out past the Imperial Beach Pier.

The surf tripled in size on Saturday March 1st and by the end of the day was breaking out past the Imperial Beach Pier.

On Saturday March 1, 2014, the surf from an unusual almost Hurricane like storm (in its appearance) battered the coast of Southern California. The surf went from 3-5′ on Saturday morning to more than 10-15′ on Saturday afternoon. High tides and surf that evening resulted in coastal flooding in Imperial Beach and up and down the California coast (especially in the Santa Barbara area).

A satellite image of the unusual storm.

A satellite image of the unusual storm.

 

Swell forecast for Imperial Beach.

In Imperial Beach this swell combined with high tides to create coastal flooding. Surf topped over the sand berm along the beachfront especially in the Cortez/Descanso area and at the Palm Avenue Jetty. On Saturday afternoon surf broke well past the Imperial Beach Pier and over a mile offshore on distant reefs.

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With high surf and high tides on the evening of March 1st, water came over the beach and into Seacoast Drive. Here is the end of Descanso Street the morning of March 2nd.

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The end of Seacoast Drive, March 2nd.

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The end of Encanto Street on March 2nd.

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Ocean Lane just north of Palm Avenune, March 2nd.

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Just north of Palm Avenue, March 2nd.

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The end of Palm Avenue, March 2nd. Flooding worsened here during the morning high tide of March 2nd.

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King Tides and Coastal Flooding in Imperial Beach

Over the past few days in Imperial Beach we’ve had “King Tides” or the highest tides of the year (over 7 feet). The tides caused with larger than average surf (in the 4-8′ range and out of the west) resulted in coastal flooding. The San Diego Union-Tribune  came down to shoot this video and was lucky to have Dr. Bob Guza of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to explain why the flooding was happening. You can see the U-T video here: http://bcove.me/zyhb25e7

Cortez Street end in Imperial Beach on January 29, 2014.

Cortez Street end in Imperial Beach on January 29, 2014.

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The end of Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach on January 29, 2014.

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Dr. Robert Guza of Scripps Institution of Oceanography talking to a reporter about coastal flooding and king tides on January 30, 2014.

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Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography monitoring conditions in Imperial Beach on January 30, 2014.

Top Five Ocean and Surfing Stories of 2012

 

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From Hurricane Sandy to the return of big-wave paddle surfing to the crowning of Parko as ASP World Surfing Champion, 2012 was a pivotal year for the ocean and for surfing.

1. Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change. This “Frankenstorm” slammed the Eastern Seaboard like a bomb, leaving a path of destruction and loss of life in its wake. Sandy’s storm surge radically changed the coastline, destroyed entire communities, and reminded us how vulnerable beaches and coastal cities are to sea level rise. Due to Sandy, 2012 was the year that will be remembered when policy makers, politicians and the public finally took climate change seriously. It remains to be seen if President Obama will have the political courage and conviction to address the very real threat of climate change that is altering our planet.

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2. The Return of Big Wave Paddle Surfing. With two days of epic conditions at the Cortes Banks just before Christmas, the world’s best big-wave surfers including Greg and Rusty Long, Mark Healy, Shane Dorian, Peter Mel, Twiggy Baker, Jamie Mitchell and Derek Dunfee, paddled into blue monsters and forever changed big-wave surfing. Those sessions followed another early season paddle session at Jaws on Maui in which veteran surfer Shane Dorian (among many) displayed his mastery of the sea. After the Coast Guard airlifted veteran big-wave charger Greg Long to a San Diego hospital after a multi-wave hold down at the Cortes Bank, we were also reminded about the very real limits to riding giant waves in the middle of the ocean.

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3. New Marine Protected Areas for Southern California. With the establishment of new Marine Protected Areas or MPAs, our most iconic coastal and marine ecosystems in Southern California–including Swami’s, La Jolla, Point Loma, Tijuana River Mouth, Laguna Beach, Catalina Island and Point Dum–are now protected forever. The establishment of MPAs in California is a globally important conservation initiative that will help to foment the restoration of our marine ecosystems and fish and shellfish stocks as well as provide recreational opportunities for our growing population. California now has 848 square miles of protected area, supporting ecosystems from Oregon to the Mexican border.

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4. Parko Wins the ASP World Title and the Changing of the Guard. After four years as ASP runner-up, Joel “Parko” Parkinson was finally crowned ASP World Surfing Champion after a brilliant performance and victory at the Billabong Pipe Masters. Parko, one of the most stylish and popular professional surfers, narrowly edged out Kelly Slater for the ASP title. It remains to be seen if Slater will return for the 2013 ASP Tour (most likely he will). But 2012 was a seminal year for professional surfing. With great performances by Josh Kerr, Kolohe Andino, Gabriel Medina, Julian Wilson, Ace Buchan, John John Florence, Yadin Nicol, Mick Fanning, and Dane (will he return full-time to pro surfing?) among others, the ranks of pro surfing is thankfully undergoing a much needed changing of the guard.

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5. James Cameron Explores the Marianas Trench. Earlier this year Oscar winning filmmaker and ocean explorer James Cameron proved his technical skill, oceanographic prowess and courage by taking his “vertical torpedo”, the Deepsea Challenger, down to a record depth of 6.8 miles or 35,803 feet in the Marianas Trench southwest of Guam. Ironically, we  seem to know more about deep space than we do about our own oceans, but thanks to Cameron and a new generation of ocean explorers and oceanographers, we are on the cusp of uncovering some of the mysteries of the origins of life.

SANDAG sand project 2012 in Imperial Beach

SANDAG sand project 2012 in Imperial Beach

Other worthy events include Hurricane Isaac, the loosening of federal restrictions on the movements of sea otters in California, the warming of Antarctica, the SANDAG sand replenishment project, the ending of La Niña, the expansion of federal marine sanctuaries in Northern California and the increasing acidification of the ocean.

Of course the most important ocean and surfing events in 2012 were those special days when we enjoyed the beaches and waves with our friends and family that belong to us all and are our responsibility to care for.

Why We Need to Address Climate Change

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With ongoing Hurricane Sandy cleanup operations and damage assessment being carried out on the Eastern Seaboard, it is easy for San Diegans to become complacent and argue that climate change can’t happen here.

But the impacts of climate change are already being felt here in San Diego.

For surfers and ocean lovers, subtle but significant changes in our climate have already had a big impact on our coastline and even surfing conditions.

The dramatic oscillations in ocean temperatures, changes in weather patterns, increased Santa Ana conditions and increasing loss of coastline due to erosion are all things long-term surfers and ocean observers already see happening.

As a drought-prone region largely dependent on water brought in from outside San Diego County, we are vulnerable to increases in temperatures, prolonged drought and sea level.

Dangerous wildfires experienced in the past decade may be indicative of what people in San Diego and elsewhere can expect in the future.

The issue isn’t whether or not San Diego is being impacted by climate change. Our climate is already changing. The fundamental issue that we need to address is how we as a region will adapt and respond to our changing climate.

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 ...

We can either bury our head in the sand and pretend that climate change is a hoax.

Or we can believe the streams of data assessed by climate scientists worldwide and in San Diego to understand that we have an obligation to identify solutions that can help deal with the changes that are happening now and forecast to come–before it is too late.

The time to deal with climate change in San Diego is right now.

Even if the cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emmissions that begins Wednesday is a huge success, pollution and the rammifications of climate change are global, so we must prepare.

Luckily the San Diego Foundation has provided a blueprint, San Diego’s Changing Climate: A Regional Wake-Up Call, for such a program and identified some of the ways in which our climate is changing now and is forecast to change.

The report evaluates how San Diego’s climate will change by 2050 if current trends continue.

Some of the facts listed in the foundation’s report:

  • We will see an increase in average annual temperatures of between 1.5-4.5 degrees.
  • The weather in November will often feel like September does (as I write this we are feeling mild Santa Ana conditions).
  • Summers will be even hotter than they are now.
  • There is projected to be an increase in sea level between 12-18 inches exacerbating the loss of beaches. Click here to see how sea level rise is expected to impact local beaches.
  • We will need 37 percent more water than we currently utilize even though our sources of water might shrink by 20 percent.
  • There will be an increase by 20 percent of the number of days with ideal conditions for large fires.

One thing that is important to mention—there is no real debate on the validity of climate science. That there is “debate” on the origins and consequences of climate science is due to campaigns financed by fossil-fuel companies opposed to any increased regulation of carbon-based energy. The impact of Hurricane Sandy illustrated to a nation why we cannot afford to wait any longer to address our changing climate.

It’s not too late to take action. I sat on the city of Chula Vista ClimateChange Working Group and was impressed by how a local group of business leaders, conservationists and scientists came together to adopt a number of common sense and low-cost strategies to reduce the impact of our changing climate (just planting more trees would help).

Planning for climate change is something that every city in San Diego County should undertake. Especially for those who live for our coast and ocean here in San Diego, it’s something that we can’t afford not to do.

San Diego County Wildfires, AGAIN!

Coastal Issues That Matter for 2013

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Sea level has been rising cm/yr, based on measurements of sea level rise from 23 long tide gauge records in geologically stable environments. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you only watched the presidential campaigns, it would have been hard to believe that we actually live on a changing planet. Due to the false “debate” over the causes and consequences of human-induced climate change (the entire “debate” is financed by retrograde energy companies), President Obama rarely even mentioned our need to address the critical problem of a changing climate that is fueling drought, super-storms (e.g. Sandy), sea-level rise and ocean acidification.

But during his victory speech President Obama made a statement that stunned environmentalists.

“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,” he said.

Hurricane Sandy was a game changer on building consensus that our quickly evolving climate cannot be ignored and that its impacts has very real consequences. So in anticipation of the road ahead for protecting our coast and ocean, here are the top issues we need to address in 2013 and beyond.

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Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 relative to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Climate Change: Hurricane Sandy showed us the very real consequences of warming temperatures, sea-level rise and the rise of destructive super-storms. Surfrider Foundation activist Mark West argues that, “Since superstorm Sandy, I think two issues are critical: rising ocean temps from global warming and coastal restoration projects.”

What is clear is that addressing the causes and consequences of climate change has to be a top priority. In San Diego, cities such as Chula Vista have already embarked on climate adaptation planning (I was a member of the advisory committee) that should be a model for San Diego County and even nationally.

Changes in sea level during the last 9,000 years

Changes in sea level during the last 9,000 years (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

San Diego Foundation also coordinated a sea level rise adaptation strategy with the particpation of coastal cities and nonprofit organizations.

Ocean Acidification: While this is a consequence of human-induced climate change, the increase in carbon in our oceans is literally changing the chemistry of our oceans.

Ken Weiss recently reported on the issue of ocean acidification:

Rising acidity doesn’t just imperil the West Coast’s $110-million oyster industry. It ultimately will threaten other marine animals, the seafood industry and even the health of humans who eat affected shellfish, scientists say. The world’s oceans have become 30% more acidic since the Industrial Revolution began more than two centuries ago. The ill effects of the changing chemistry only add to the oceans’ problems, which include warming temperatures and expanding low-oxygen “dead zones.” By the end of the century, said French biological oceanographer Jean-Pierre Gattuso, “The oceans will become hot, sour and breathless.”

Coastal Restoration: San Diego has always been a national and even global leader in coastal restoration efforts. But we need to do more in the way of restoring our wetlands, watersheds and natural dune systems in order to strengthen our natural defenses against sea level rise and help to sequester the increasing amounts of carbon in our atmosphere. Additionally, restoration projects can increase our access to open spaces and trial systems that keep us healthy as well as protect fish and wildlife populations.

Stones on a Rocky Ocean Beach

Stones on a Rocky Ocean Beach (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Sand Replenishment: For Oceanside surfer Rick Hahn, our biggest coastal issue is, “The consequences of constructing civilization in extreme proximity to our beaches, bays and waterways.” In many cases government agencies have only come up with one solution to that problem—dumping huge amounts of expensive sand on our coastline, often prioritizing the wealthiest coastal communities due to their capacity to hire expensive and well-connected sand lobbyists to game the system. However, what we saw with Sandy’s storm surge was the futility of spending billions of dollars on wasteful and largely pork-barrel sand replenishment projects. We need to rethink these projects so that they are smaller, more strategic and less costly.

This is especially the case in Southern California where the Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to spend a quarter of a billion dollars to dump sand on small patches of beachfront in Solana Beach, Encinitas and San Clemente. SANDAG planners also need to evaluate their current project in order to identify ways to reduce impacts to critical reefs and design future projects in a way that enhances rather than destroys surfing areas. We need a national debate on the most effective ways of preserving our beaches while maintaining our fiscal health.

Change in sea water acidity pH caused by anthr...

Change in sea water acidity pH caused by anthropogenic CO 2 between the 1700s and the 1990s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marine Protected Areas: With the enactment of a new system of state marine protected areas (MPAs)throughout our coastline, California has become a global leader in strategically preserving our most critical coastal and marine ecosystems. There is no better way to cost-effectively preserve our finfish populations than investing in the conservation of their spawning grounds. It is important to help to restore our new MPAs in order to bring back our commercially valuable fish and shellfish populations and preserve our treasures of the sea.

Fish populations returned more than 460% in the Cabo Pulmo MPA in Mexico.

Coastal Pollution: We have to continue reducing the flow of polluted runoff and plastic from our watersheds into the ocean so that we don’t have to worry about getting sick when we play in the ocean. Watershed and wetland restoration help in this effort, but it is everyone’s job to Think Blue.

There are a host of other critical issues including seismic testing, oil drilling in the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico, preserving endangered marine wildlife such as sharks, marine mammals and sea turtles, and the expansion of offshore drilling.

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