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Fieldwork

USGS Scientists Gather Images and Information About Recent Hurricanes


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Hurricane season has kept scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) St. Petersburg Science Center in St. Petersburg, FL, busy both personally and professionally, as they divide their time between preparing homes for the next storm and working to document the most recent damage.

The striking results of their efforts—conducted in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)—can be viewed on the USGS Hurricane and Extreme Storm Impact Studies Web site.

An early set of photographs posted on the site records a new breach through North Captiva Island, a barrier island off the southwest coast of Florida where Hurricane Charley's eye wall came ashore on August 13, 2004. USGS scientists Dennis Krohn, Karen Morgan, and Russ Peterson flew over the coast two days later to photograph the impacts of the category 4 hurricane. On August 16, USGS personnel quickly put together "before" (September 29, 1999) and "after" (August 15, 2004) mosaics of the breach that were published on August 17 in the New York Times. The photos can be viewed on the USGS Hurricane Charley Web site.

Index map Before-and-after photographic mosaics of a 450-m-wide breach through North Captiva Island
North Captiva Island Breach: Before-and-after photographic mosaics of a 450-m-wide breach through North Captiva Island on Florida's southwest coast, caused by Hurricane Charley on August 13, 2004. Map shows the island's location. (Viewable online on the USGS Hurricane Charley Web site.) [larger version]

Also on the Web site, posted just days after Hurricane Charley, is a vertical color-infrared (IR) photograph, acquired by the NASA Experimental Airborne Advanced Research Lidar (EAARL) system, that shows destruction of trees on North Captiva Island. Each of the felled trees is aligned with the dominant wind direction. The site also has images of trees completely stripped of leaves, reminiscent of what happened when Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida in 1992. Three-dimensional topographic and bathymetric images produced from lidar (light detection and ranging) data collected in September 1998, May 2004, and August 2004 show how the breached area of North Captiva Island has changed over time.

Category 2 Hurricane Frances came ashore on the central Atlantic coast of Florida on September 5, 2004. On September 8, USGS scientists began acquiring data, and their preliminary assessment of the coastal change caused by the hurricane is available on the USGS Hurricane Frances Web site. Included on this site are before-and-after photographs of coastal erosion and overwash deposits carried landward by waves and storm surge.

Before-and-after photographs of an overwash deposit
Above: Before-and-after photographs of an overwash deposit (to right of middle oceanfront house) at Floralton Beach on Florida's central Atlantic coast, caused by Hurricane Frances on September 5. Waves and storm surge overtopped the crest of the beach and drove sand landward, covering vegetation and part of the road. Similar overwash deposits were formed sporadically along the coast. (Viewable online on the USGS Hurricane Frances Web site.) [larger version]

Category 3 Hurricane Ivan came ashore near Gulf Shores, AL, on September 16, 2004, causing heavy damage along the coast. The next day, USGS scientists conducted an aerial-photographic survey of the barrier islands in Alabama and Florida that were affected by the hurricane. Some of the resulting photographs have been posted on the USGS Hurricane Ivan Web site, paired with prestorm photographs, taken in July 2001, to illustrate the extreme coastal change produced by Hurricane Ivan.

Before-and-after photographs of destroyed houses in the barrier-island community of Orange Beach, AL.
Above: Before-and-after photographs of destroyed houses in the barrier-island community of Orange Beach, AL. The houses were built on top of a dune that was severely eroded during Hurricane Ivan. Note the walkways in the prestorm photograph that once served as pathways down to the beach. (Viewable online on the USGS Hurricane Ivan Web site.) [larger version]

Category 3 Hurricane Jeanne came ashore on the central Atlantic coast of Florida on September 25, 2004. USGS scientists took photographs of the damage on September 29 and have posted before-and-after pairs on the USGS Hurricane Jeanne Web site. Some of the photographs document damage by erosion of sand dunes and undermining of structures, and others document damage by deposition of sand in overwash deposits. Photographs grouped in threes—a shot of a coastal area in 1997, a shot of the same area after Hurricane Frances, and a shot of the area after Hurricane Jeanne—show progressive erosion by the two hurricanes, which hit Florida's central east coast just three weeks apart.

Dune erosion by successive hurricanes
Above: Dune erosion by successive hurricanes undermined houses in Vero Beach, FL (upper photograph: 8/12/97; middle: after Hurricane Frances, 9/8/04; bottom: after Hurricane Jeanne, 9/29/04). At the time of the first photograph, the seaward face of the dune was vegetated. After Hurricane Frances, the dune had retreated to the edge of the house. During Hurricane Jeanne, the dune eroded farther and undermined the house. (Viewable online on the USGS Hurricane Jeanne Web site.) [larger version]

Please continue to visit the Hurricanes and Extreme Storm Impact Studies group of Web sites, where new information and images will be posted as they become available.


Related Sound Waves Stories
Before and After Surveys Document the Impacts of Hurricane Isabel
November 2003
Major Hurricanes along the North Gulf Coast of Florida Affect Adult Survival Rates of the Endangered Florida Manatee
May 2003

Related Web Sites
Hurricane and Extreme Storm Impact Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Hurricane Jeanne Impact Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Hurricane Ivan Impact Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Hurricane Frances Impact Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Hurricane Charley Impact Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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in this issue: Fieldwork cover story:
Images and Information About Recent Hurricanes

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American Samoa's Resilient Coral Reefs

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Research Wastewater - A Potential Threat to Florida Keys

Gulf of Mexico Vulnerable to Hurricanes

Outreach USGS Pacific Science Center Open House

Exhibit Designers Interested in Hurricane Research

USGS Hosts Science-Learning Session

Meetings Shore and Beach Preservation Conference

Deep Water Coral Research Workshop

Awards Jim Estes Wins Shoemaker Award

Four Publications Win Shoemaker Awards

Gene Shin Wins Shifting Baselines Contest

Staff & Center News NMSF Regional Office Moving to St. Petersburg, FL

Elena Nilsen Joins Coastal and Marine Geology Team

USGS Vessel To Test Counter-Terrorism Equipment

Dave Reid Wins Triathlon

Publications Southern Sea Otter Video Online

Human Influence on San Francisco Bay Floor

U.S. Coastal Cliffs

October Publications List


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