Tuesday, November 8, 2016

snowballs wash up on beach

There were snowy, icy balls everywhere.
Videos and photos from western Siberia, on the Gulf of Ob, showed an entire beach covered in snowballs that had apparently washed ashore. In one image published online by the Siberian Times, a woman sat on the frozen balls. In another, a dog ran near the balls, which had also formed what looked like a vertical mass of balls mashed together into an icy ball-wall.
The BBC reports that the balls started washing up about two weeks ago. They're strung along some 11 miles of coast and are said to range from about the size of a tennis ball up to almost 3 feet across.
Here's a video of the beach shot by someone named Valery Togo, who told the Russian news site Vesti Yamal that he lives in the nearby town of Nyda, which is on the Yamal Peninsula just above the Arctic Circle.

The BBC reports the chilled orbs that washed ashore "result from a rare environmental process where small pieces of ice form, are rolled by wind and water, and end up as giant snowballs." It adds:
"Russian TV quoted an explanation from Sergei Lisenkov, press secretary of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute:
" 'As a rule, first there is a primary natural phenomenon — sludge ice, slob ice. Then comes a combination of the effects of the wind, the lay of the coastline, and the temperature and wind conditions.'
" 'It can be such an original combination that it results in the formation of balls like these.' "
The Collins English Dictionary defines "slob ice" as "sludgy masses of floating ice" in Canadian English.
Rare and original as the ball-forming process might be, this is not the first time humans have witnessed these globular creations. In 2010, a Chicago Tribune video showed snowballs that washed up along Lake Michigan.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Took A Big Bite Out Of Southeastern States' Beaches

Beaches in the Southeastern U.S. took a tremendous beating last month from Hurricane Matthew. The U.S. Geological Survey has found that the storm washed over and damaged 15 percent of sand dunes on Florida's Atlantic Coast, 30 percent along Georgia's coastline and 42 percent of the dunes on South Carolina beaches.
In Florida, few coastal areas were hit harder by the hurricane than the 18 miles of dunes and beaches in Flagler County. County Administrator Craig Coffey says, "What Matthew did to us essentially [was] eat about 30 feet of coastline all the way along the county, and created a bunch of breaches through that dune system."
Matthew also washed out a big chunk of coastal highway A1A in Flagler Beach. The state and county are working to have that road repaired and open within 45 days. Fixing that highway is important, Coffey says. But he is equally worried about damage to the county's beaches and dunes, which provide the community with important protection from tides, wave action and storm surge.
When Hurricane Matthew overtopped and breached Flagler County's beaches, some 800 homes were flooded. Coffey says, "We're trying to figure out how can we protect those for next hurricane season so we don't have more breaches. We literally were fighting breaches in about 10 locations." Flagler County is hoping federal money will be available to help it begin restoring the dunes, which provide protection for hundreds of coastal homes.

Photos taken before Hurricane Matthew (Sept. 6, 2014, above) and after (Oct. 13, 2016, below) show that the storm cut a new inlet between the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River near St. Augustine, Fla., stripping away a 12-foot dune and carrying sand into the estuary.

Many other communities are facing similar problems. The USGS says 53 miles of dunes were damaged and overtopped in Florida. In Georgia, 32 miles of shoreline were affected. Seventy-seven miles of dunes were damaged in South Carolina.
Hilary Stockdon, a research oceanographer at USGS, says a survey of the beaches compared aerial photos taken before and after the storm. It showed extensive beach erosion all along the Southeast Atlantic coast, Stockdon says, "where waves removed sand from beaches and sharply eroded sand dunes. There were locations where houses were undermined or roads were undermined. And we also saw locations where the sand was pushed inland."
After small storms, Stockdon says, beaches and dunes can recover naturally. With major storms like Hurricane Matthew, though, sand is washed inland and bulldozed away, she says. Restoring sand dunes after those events often requires big engineering projects.
Photos taken before Hurricane Matthew (Sept. 6, 2014) and after (Oct. 14, 2016) show that the storm washed away a 16-foot sand dune, destroying boardwalks and decks and exposing a seawall at Vilano Beach, Fla.

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