The biggest storm in years took away something from Southern California that could be missed when the weather heats up the beach.
From Dockweiler State Beach to Redondo Beach, the eyeball test plus a new report on beach erosion throughout California shows how the recent weather system, combined with the El Nio of the past two years, have wiped out (and, in some cases, rearranged) acres of sand.
The report, from UC Santa Barbara and six other researchers, describes the El Nio side of the equation as the most significant erosion-related climate event of the past 145 years.
While South Bay beaches did not experience nearly as much damage over the weekend as spots further north in Malibu where runoff carved out a chunk of beach beneath a restroom at Point Dume lifeguards are moving their towers back as the sand disappears.
Weve definitely lost a ton of beach, said L.A. County lifeguards Capt. Eric Howell. Youll get that anytime theres big surf and rain.
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The recent storm, as well has one in January that dumped 3.5 inches on Redondo Beach, was just the latest factor in what has become an ongoing erosion problem up and down the Pacific coast. The study from UC Santa Barbara and others found last winter, which was relatively dry in Southern California but wetter than usual from Seattle down to San Luis Obispo, had created a situation in which beach erosion was 76 percent above normal, and that most beaches in California are eroded beyond historical extremes.
That could be a big problem, the study warns, if El Nio events become more common. About 25 million people live near the coastline.
The research was based on 29 beaches along the 1,200-mile Pacific coast, from San Diego on the south and Monterey Bay and Ocean Beach in Northern California. And while no South Bay beaches were part of the study, the effects here have been similar to whats taken place in other spots a severe loss of sand.
At the least, its an interesting sight for geological-minded beachgoers who marvel at the dramatic changes caused by storms. For some, limited beach access is a beach bummer. At the worst, the changes can be life threatening.
One year ago, El Nio swells transformed Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro into a rocky shoreline, stunning beachgoers. Officials were so concerned, they were considering a massive replenishment project, something that hadnt been done since 1991.
But months later, the sand returned, said Larry Fukuhara, director of programs at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.
Last year was really bad and all of a sudden, that sand came right back, he said.
The beach has lost sand this year, too, but not nearly as much as in 2016, he said.
I thought it was going to be even worse because of the storms, but the rocks are covered up quite a bit, Fukuhara said. Waves and currents are very complex.
The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors has seen about the same amount of erosion on South Bay beaches this year as it typically does, said spokeswoman Nicole Mooradian, with Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach losing the most sand.
Were seeing a lot just after these storms, but we did see it last year, too, she said. Even though we didnt get hammered by the rain, we still got the swells and storm surges from up north.
The department has built a berm on Hermosa Beach and several on Dockweiler State Beach.
The latter beach will be getting some relief from erosion soon thanks to a $2.7 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging project underway in Marina del Rey. Some of the sand being removed from navigation channels and a sand trap near the breakwater will be dumped offshore from Dockweiler State Beach so that waves can replenish the beach naturally, said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Jay Field.
But despite the damaging effects of recent storms to the eroding coast, theres one element this year that didnt exist during last years El Nino that could help the eroding coastline: rain.
El Nio was largely considered a dud due to the unusually low rainfall, particularly in Southern California, which received 70 percent less rain than during the past two big El Nio events, the study reads.
One of the particular interests now is to see how the shorelines recover from El Nio, said UC Santa Barbara marine scientist David Hubbard.
Thats where the rearrangement of sand comes into play. While rain and powerful surf eat away at beaches near the shore, storms can speed up the pace at which new sand is brought down to the beach via rivers and creeks. Rain this year seems to be helping in that part of the process.
Finally this year, this is bringing sand back to the shoreline, Hubbard said. Were hoping this will bring beaches back to average.
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