Wednesday, December 27, 2006

OSU Researcher: Winter Storms and Wave Heights Escalating off Northwest Coast

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Pacific Northwest coast has experienced increasingly intense winter storms and higher wave heights over the last 25 years, both of which may be leading to earlier and more severe winter erosion, scientists at Oregon State University say.

Entire beaches have been scoured away this fall and cliffside houses at Gleneden Beach and elsewhere are in jeopardy, says Paul Komar, professor emeritus in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University.

“We’ve seen some pretty intense winter erosion in Oregon,” Komar said, “but I don’t ever remember seeing the extent of the problem this early. Usually, the erosion doesn’t take effect until January, February or March. If the beach is gone in November, what will happen 2-3 months from now when additional storms hit and that buffer is gone?”

Komar said there is no consensus on why storms have been getting stronger. Some scientists believe global warming may play a role, while others say similar conditions occurred in the late 19th century, suggesting periodicity, if not some kind of cycle.

One thing is certain: Wave heights are increasing.

Komar and colleague Jonathan Allan, a courtesy professor at OSU who works for the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, have been monitoring buoy data since 1975. They found that during the early years of measurements, wave heights – measured several miles off the coast – averaged about three meters. In recent years, that average has grown to four meters, a substantial increase. At the same time, the wave heights during major storms have increased from being on the order of 11 meters in 1975 to 15 meters now.

The researchers have published their findings in the Journal of Coastal Research.

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]