Tsunami structure gets its test – in miniature

Cannon Beach wave modelOfficials from the coastal Oregon town of Cannon Beach visited Oregon State University’s Hinsdale Wave Research Center this week to get a first-hand look at how a proposed new city hall and tsunami survival center might work.

Researcher Dan Cox showed off a scale model of the structure – and all of downtown Cannon Beach – and then pounded it with scale-model waves in one of the Hinsdale Center’s massive wave-generating tanks.

Cannon Beach is one of many coastal communities trying to come up with plans to save lives and property should the Oregon Coast be struck by a tsunami. Scientists say it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” – and recent studies suggest that the region is overdue.

Along with warning systems, evacuation routes and public education, Cannon Beach is hoping to get federal funds to build a new, $4 million city hall that would stand on 15-foot-high tsunami-resistant pilings and provide safe refuge for people unable to evacuate the downtown area. Their hope is that by putting city services in a building that can survive a tsunami, they would be better prepared to manage the emergency response to such a disaster.

It would be the first such structure in the United States; the Japanese have built similar structures, but none has yet been tested in an actual tsunami.

Accompanying the Cannon Beach delegation to OSU was Patrick Corcoran, Oregon Sea Grant’s coastal hazards specialist, who has been working with coastal communities to help them develop and improve tsunami disaster planning.

“Every community from Cape Mendocino in California to Vancouver Island in Canada is vulnerable to some extent to the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake and tsunamis,” said  Corcoran, “This is arguably the greatest recurring natural hazard in the lower 48 states. Our cities are not engineered to deal with it and our residents are not prepared for it. We need evacuation routes, assembly sites, public education and outreach. And in some places, we need vertical evacuation structures. The only way to potentially save thousands of lives is through more education and better engineering.”

Sea Grant has supported a number of research projects at the Hinsdale Center, including a current effort by civil engineering professor Dr. Harry Yeh to better understand how the shape of the seafloor immediately offshore can amplify the effects of big waves on specific communities.

What’s fresh on the Oregon coast?

Live Dungeness crabIf you’ve ever found yourself wondering  what seafood is in season on the Oregon Coast, Kaety Hildenbrand has the answers.

Sea Grant’s marine fisheries educator in Lincoln County, Hildenbrand has put together a handy, one-page consumer guide listing the 2010 commercial fishing seasons for salmon, Albacore tuna, Dungeness crab and other popular Pacific seafood species. Print it, put it on your refrigerator or in your glove compartment and you’ll know what you should be able to find fresh fromseafood markets and dockside vendors the next time you visit the coast.

Download  “What’s Fresh and When”

Fast-growing marine invasive found in Oregon waters

Didemnum vexillumAn aggressive, invasive aquatic organism that is on the state’s most dangerous species list has been discovered in both Winchester Bay and Coos Bay, and scientists say this “colonial tunicate” – Didemnum vexillum – has serious economic and environmental implications.

Its propensity to foul surfaces of boats, fishing nets, water intakes, docks and buoys could make it costly to control, and its ability to smother shellfish beds and sensitive marine environments threatens other marine life.

“This is not a welcome addition to our bays and now the clock is ticking,” said Sam Chan, Oregon Sea Grant’s  invasive species specialist at Oregon State University and chair of the Oregon Invasive Species Council. “The fouling potential from tunicate invasions can be severe, given its ability to reproduce asexually by budding, or breaking off as fragments, and through sexual reproduction where tadpoles emerge, swim and attach themselves to surfaces to form new colonies.”

The Didemnum invertebrates were first discovered earlier this year  in Winchester Bay, and later in Coos Bay. They are native to Japan and can live from the estuary to the continental shelf. In calm water, colonies may grow in long, beard-like expanses on substrates such as docks, mooring lines, boat hulls and aquaculture infrastructure.

In faster currents, Didemnum forms low, undulating mats overgrowing seabeds of pebbles, boulders and jetty rock. The organisms will grow over, and choke clams, oysters, mussels, anemones and other marine creatures by covering their feeding siphons, and can serve as a barrier between bottom-feeding fish and their prey.
Read more …

Find us on FaceBook

Name that bridgeIf you haven’t checked out Oregon Sea Grant’s FaceBook page yet, now’s a great time – we’ve just launched a friendly little “name that bridge” competition featuring photos of – and a bit of history about – the historic bridges of the Oregon Coast. (The first photo’s sneaky: Most people would probably recognize this bridge photographed from a distance, so we’re featuring a shot taken from underneath!)

Learn more about architect-engineer-dreamer Conde McCullough and the bridges he built to tie US Highway 101 together from the California border clear to Astoria. If you’re on FaceBook, you can “like” the page and share your own photos of Oregon’s beautiful coastal bridges, too.

(If you prefer your ocean and coastal news in bite-sized pieces, readable from your cell phone or other mobile device, try our Twitter feed!)

NOAA adds Deepwater oil spill site

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched Current trajectory map for Gulf oil spilla new Web site for information about the Deepwater Horizon oilspill in the Gulf of Mexico.

From the site:

“As the nation’s leading scientific resource for oil spills, NOAA has been on the scene of the BP spill from the start, providing coordinated scientific weather and biological response services to federal, state and local organizations. We have mobilized experts from across the agency to help contain the spreading oil spill and protect the Gulf of Mexico’s many marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, shellfish and other endangered marine life.”

Along with monitoring and predicting the oil’s trajectory and providing detailed weather forecasts to officials attempting to contain the spill and clean up the oil, the agency is providing aircraft and  marine mammal spotters from its Southeast Fisheries Science Center to assess what species might come into contact with the oil,  and using experimental satellite data from their Satellite Analysis Branch to survey the extent of spill-related marine pollution.

The site contains up-to-date predictions of the oil’s trajectory and maps showing the path of the layers of oil floating on the ocean surface.  It also includes links to the official  Deepwater Horizon Joint Information Center, which has detailed information about the spill containment and recovery effort, including information for volunteers.

The  Joint Information Center is also distributing information about the effort via  social networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.

Sea Grant wave research and outreach featured by NOAA

Crashing wavesAn Oregon Sea Grant-supported researcher’s discovery that record-breaking wave heights have the potential to do more damage to the Oregon coast than rising sea levels – and a Sea Grant Extension specialist’s efforts to help make coastal communities more resilient to such  hazards  – are featured on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Web site.

The feature spotlights the work of Peter Ruggiero, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, who recently published the results of his Sea Grant-sponsored study in the journal Coastal Engineering. Ruggiero’s team found that while all waves off the Oregon Coast are taller on average than they were 35 years ago, the highest waves during winter storms are gaining height faster than the low waves of summer.

That could mean bad news for coastal communities and their residents, says Patrick Corcoran, the program’s Astoria-based coastal hazards specialist, who  said, “Increased development on borderline sites along the Oregon coastline puts homes and other stationary structures at risk.”

The feature story (available in full here) is one of several illustrating the accomplishments of NOAA and its sub-agencies – including Sea Grant  – in four key thematic areas:

  • Protecting lives and property
  • Promoting economic vitality
  • Conserving and restoring natural resources
  • Monitoring and understanding our changing planet.

Read more about Peter Ruggiero’s Sea Grant research
Read more about Patrick Corcoran’s coastal hazards work