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San Diego Researchers Digging For Information On Sand Berms

Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography dig a hole in Coronado's...

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography dig a hole in Coronado's Silver Strand beach on the Navy's Amphibious Base so they can bury pressure sensors on Dec. 14, 2017.

San Diego researchers are studying the Navy’s sand berms on Coronado's Silver Strand beach, hoping to learn how the ocean affects the protective structures.

Sand berms have protected the Navy’s Amphibious Base on the Silver Strand for years. Navy crews build the mounds of sand each fall to keep winter ocean waves and tides from bashing the base's buildings and flooding the rest of the facility.

Storm-driven waves have already torn away park of a concrete parking lot.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography research team spent a few hours Thursday digging holes in the sand near the high tide mark.

They use a specially designed pump to push water through a long tube. That tube makes it easier to dig a deep hole in the compacted sand.

“So they’re just making a pit of quicksand and they’ll jam that into the pit,” said Bob Guza, Scripps Institution of Oceanography professor emeritus.

Guza is overseeing the effort to bury a pressure sensor here.

The two newly buried sensors will measure water pressure. That gives researchers a picture of ocean levels and the frequency and size of waves moving over the device.

Researchers want to learn how the sand berms erode when they are assaulted by high tides and storm-driven waves.

“If we have a body of knowledge based on what is happening now, and we can make three- to five-day forecasts about the berm, that puts us in a reasonable position to try to deal with conditions getting worse,” Guza said.

That is welcome news for the Navy which built these berms to keep high water from flooding their base.

The research could help the military design more resilient berms as climate change pushes up ocean levels.

“If we don’t have a beach and we don’t have buildings we really can’t do the training that’s necessary for our team to make sure that they’re prepared and ready to go,” said Jason Golumbfskie-Jones, the environmental director at Naval Base Coronado

Understanding how berms erode or withstand the pressure of rising ocean levels is part of the Navy’s comprehensive strategy to deal with climate change.

Federal climate researchers say ocean levels could rise three feet by 2050.

San Diego researchers are studying sand berms on a Coronado beach, hoping to learn how ocean waves affect the protective structures.

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