The impact of the 2009–10 El Nino Modoki on U.S. West Coast beaches Public Deposited

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  • High-resolution beach morphology data collected along much of the U.S. West Coast are synthesized to evaluate the coastal impacts of the 2009–10 El Niño. Coastal change observations were collected as part of five beach monitoring programs that span between 5 and 13 years in duration. In California, regional wave and water level data show that the environmental forcing during the 2009–10 winter was similar to the last significant El Niño of 1997–98, producing the largest seasonal shoreline retreat and/or most landward shoreline position since monitoring began. In contrast, the 2009–10 El Niño did not produce anomalously high mean winter-wave energy in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington), although the highest 5% of the winter wave-energy measurements were comparable to 1997–98 and two significant non-El Niño winters. The increase in extreme waves in the 2009–10 winter was coupled with elevated water levels and a more southerly wave approach than the long-term mean, resulting in greater shoreline retreat than during 1997–98, including anomalously high shoreline retreat immediately north of jetties, tidal inlets, and rocky headlands. The morphodynamic response observed throughout the U.S. West Coast during the 2009–10 El Niño is principally linked to the El Niño Modoki phenomena, where the warm sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly is focused in the central equatorial Pacific (as opposed to the eastern Pacific during a classic El Niño), featuring a more temporally persistent SST anomaly that results in longer periods of elevated wave energy but lower coastal water levels.
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  • Barnard, P. L., J. Allan, J. E. Hansen, G. M. Kaminsky, P. Ruggiero, and A. Doria (2011), The impact of the 2009–10 El Niño Modoki on U.S. West Coast beaches, Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L13604, doi:10.1029/2011GL047707.
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  • 38
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  • L13604
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  • The authors wish to thank the U.S. Geological Survey, Washington State Department of Ecology, California Department of Boating and Waterways, Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS), and the United States Army Corps of Engineers for funding the long‐term beach morphology monitoring programs described within.
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