Posted by: coastlinesproject | February 13, 2016

Return of the Polar Vortex!

Posted by: coastlinesproject | February 11, 2016

Climate change and cheap oil, good article.



Read more in William Sargent’s new book, Energy Wars; A Report from the Front available in local bookstores and through and at




Posted by: coastlinesproject | February 10, 2016

Cruise ship caught in February storm limps back to port.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | February 10, 2016

Turks dolphin report.

Hi All,
Apparently there is a big front coming toward Turks and Caicos. The big waves and high water has already hit, the rest is due to arrive on Friday and Saturday.
I have a guest here from home who would of course really like to see JoJo. She has swum with him before from my first boat Catch Ride. She went off to look at the water in front of Ocean Club and came back to report monster waves and water coming up the steps to the Cabana Bar. We eat the majority of our meals overlooking the water at the Cabana Bar.
The water is still however pretty flat out the South Side so we head out hoping to find Sponge Bob. It appears we need JoJo’s help however because we don’t see any dorsals all the way to French Cay.
As we approach the island which is a bird sanctuary a Frigate bird soars high above us. From the white on his breast, he appears to be a juvenile. Soon we are seeing Brown Noddys and terns also soaring over head in search of food. These are all pelagic birds who are here only to have their babies before they head back over the ocean where they spend their lives.
I notice a dive boat slowing down as it is leaving French Cay then circling. Sure sign they have spotted something. We head over to find what looks like five or six dolphins. When I get in I find more like 12 dolphins.
Eventually the pod moves off and I get into the boat. We come across another pod which are probably part of the big pod. This smaller group has two mothers and calves and one adult maybe an aunt traveling together. The two calves came right toward our boat and I get in. They are curious but return to their mothers after looking at me.
With any luck we will be able to go out again tomorrow but for sure only on the South Side. I need JoJo my guide to find his friends but it will be to rough to go to our meeting place.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | February 9, 2016

Plum Island took a beating particularly North Point.

Secrets in the Sand

January 10, 2016



On January 10, 2016, Sandy Tilton took a photograph of the sharply scarped dune on Plum Island’s North Point. She was one of a casual cadre of citizen scientists who were monitoring Plum Island’s erosion on a weekly basis.


But this photograph was different. It showed a piece of rough concrete jutting out of the base of the eroding dune. It lay beside an old telephone cable and the remains of probably an old engine hoist and what looked like the engine from an ancient truck.


I wondered how old all these artifacts could be, so I checked into the history of the twin lighthouses on Plum Island and found some suggestive passages.


In 1871 the federal lighthouse board expounded on the importance of Plum Island’s wooden lighthouses but recommended that a new cast iron one be built on a concrete base extending below the waterline. They figured that if the lighthouse had to be moved they would only have to pay for constructing another concrete base in a new location.


The twin towers did have to be moved in 1874, along with the lighthouse keeper’s house and several outbuildings. This was seven years before the Army Corps of Engineers started to build the 2,445-foot south jetty that you can still see abutting Northern Reservation Terrace.


The Department of Justice also noted that “trespassers” had built a railway between the two lights as well as “a considerable number of dwellings in the immediate vicinity.” Then in 1898 a telephone line was buried in the dunes between the lighthouse and the Plum Island Lifesaving Station.


This meant that the piece of concrete had to be at least 200 years old. It was probably the foundation of the old lighthouse that had been out here before the jetty was completed and after the Merrimack River stopped flowing into the ocean through what we now call the basin. What we now call the spur of the jetty was built to protect the lighthouse from erosion before it was moved in the Seventies. So what we are starting to see are artifacts from several eras.


But for residents of Northern Reservation Terrace, what was most interesting was that the artifacts were lower than the sand on the south side of the jetty. How did this come about?

Well if you look at the old charts you would see that North Point was at its widest and longest just before the original jetty was completed in 1900.


The natural beach was covered with dunes and growing from the steady supply of sand flowing north along the ocean side of Plum Island, but because this natural beach was healthy and in equilibrium it was also several feet lower.


But all that changed when the jetty was completed. Sand started building up on the south side of the jetty but North Point started to rapidly erode, because the jetty was starving it of sand. This was the same situation the residents of Northern Reservation Terrace had found themselves in early 2016.


It also meant that the ocean that was herniating through the dunes because of the jetty might be stopped by the buried remains of the 1800’s jetty, but nothing would prevent it from shearing off the entire north end of the point along with the present lighthouse, the state’s shellfish depuration lab and about 235 homes, worth between $115 million and $235 million in private property and public infrastructure.


However, the artifacts also indicated how to reverse the erosion. The same rapid erosion had occurred when the Corps repaired the jetty in the 1970’s. The repaired jetty had also cut off the natural flow of sand leading to such severe erosion that the old lighthouse had to be moved into town and it looked like erosion would continue to shear off the rest of the point.


But then the Blizzard of 1978 struck, and it was so powerful that it caused several of the boulders on the landward end of the jetty to settle. This allowed sand to flow through the jetty once again, eventually building up almost 400 feet of sand dunes between Northern Reservation Terrace and the ocean.


These were the same sand dunes that were eroding in 2016, at the rate of 150 feet a year. If this erosion continued the houses on Northern Reservation Terrace houses would be in imminent danger in two short years.


But hopefully, this time the residents of Northern Reservation Terrace wouldn’t have to wait for another storm. The Army Corps of Engineers was studying whether they could install a weir jetty or use pumps to return the system to a semblance of its former equilibrium. It was a winnable proposition. Science, nature and human intervention would all be pulling in the same direction, unlike in Newbury, where they were pulling in opposite directions.








Read more in William Sargent’s new book, Plum Island; 4,000

Years on a Barrier Beach is available in local bookstores and through






Posted by: coastlinesproject | February 7, 2016

NE storm Bill Ryan report.

The picture is much clearer today. The first (Monday) storm will be stronger than thought yesterday but the second (late Tues) storm will not be a threat. The Monday storm is just now “bombing” off HAT, see the satellite image below. The presence of cumulonimbus in the images shows that this is a very energetic storm.

Weather on the Cape deteriorates quickly this evening. NE winds to near gale force, with gusts well above the gale threshold of 35 kts, begin around midnight tonight and continue to early evening Monday when they will back to the NNW and diminish.

Two issues affecting the Cape:
(1) The forecast models haven’t changed the track of the storm on Monday, its center will remain well offshore, but the forecast strength of the storm has increased and, in particular, the radius of strong winds (and thus high seas) is very large. As a result, sea state forecasts from the NWS have been steadily increasing and now peak at 14-19′ for the near shore waters east of Cape Cod late Monday. The storm surge forecast increased as well to 1.5-2′. The time of most concern for erosion will be the Monday morning high tide.
(2) Snow fall amounts: Earlier this week forecast snow totals were not so exciting but the most recent forecasts average out at around 8-10″ for the Cape. The key factor here will be “ocean effect” snow. Like the “lake effect”, this results from warm moist ocean air riding into very cold land areas. Right now ocean temperatures are warm (compared to average) at ~ 6C. Temperatures at ~ 1.5 km aloft will be ~ -8C. This is above the threshold for serious snow. The question for Chatham is whether the snow will dump immediately on land or take until the other side of the Bridges to dump. No answer to that right now – will just have to follow the radar as it develops.


Posted by: coastlinesproject | February 7, 2016

Turks dolphin report

Hi All,
The water is flat as we come out of Leeward. I have a friend, Trisha from home on board the morning. She has been a JoJo fan since she saw him from our boat years ago. We see a can floating in the water (trash) ask John heads over so we can take remove it from the otherwise gorgeous turquoise water. Just as we get there, JoJo pops up. Sound familiar? Once again, he wants us to bring him to the South Side. Trisha gets an opportunity to see how JoJo lets us know where he’d like to go. Once we clear Leeward Channel and start heading toward the wreck that lies out on the South Side, JoJo starts swimming to the side of the wake on his side. I see dolphins do this when they are swimming along the bottom echolocating in search of fish. I assume he is echolocating to find dolphins. He branches off before we get to the wreck and swims around slowly. Not long after, dolphins start arriving. There are three. I get in hoping they are dolphins I know. They take a brief look at me and continue on. JoJo makes several attempts to bring me closer to them. They aren’t very interested in me. This is only speculation but I would guess they are juvenile females.
After a good hour of visiting with them JoJo moves off alone heading south. He gets in our wake and we take him until he branches off again. He then seems to want to swim around the boat maybe catching a quick nap. I get in thinking this would be a perfect time for Trisha to get in. But before she can get her gear on JoJo heads south. I climb back in the boat and see a dorsal in the distance. He is making his way to another dolphin! Once they greet each other, I get in to find Sponge Bob. He appears happy to see me. He comes much closer than the first time I met him. When you watch the video look for a barracuda that was opening and closing his jaws in what I thought was a threatening sort of way. JoJo appears and comes around me. I don’t know if he was protecting me but it appears that way and I appreciate it! S. Bob attacks one sponge and it looks like the sand! He wasn’t crater fishing he was just smooshing his rostrum into the sand! He seemed to be showing off as he whirled and dove around me.

I don’t know what JoJo’s plan is but I’m sure he has one. Does he want me to meet the future generations of his family? Does he want them to meet me? There has been a progression in our friendship over the years. First magical swims. After about 5 years he started introducing me to mothers and calves but only on Grace Bay. Now he’s letting me in on dolphins on the South Side. I think of JoJo as “Rabbit” in Winnie The Pooh. Rabbit kept track of all his friends and relations.
Jay Sargent author of
JoJo and Me

Posted by: coastlinesproject | February 6, 2016

NE two more storms in the offing. Bill Ryan report.

Strong NE blow on Monday, chance of another blow with snow on Tuesday evening.

It’s February, so it’s prime time for the winter coastal storms. The Monday storm is much less “standard” than the big storm a few weeks ago. The track of the low will be much further offshore (see WPC forecast below), so less precipitation impacts, but its wind field will be larger than usual so Cape Cod will see NE winds up to Gale force from roughly sunrise Monday, continuing through the day before veering NW and diminishing after midnight. The highest high tide is late Monday morning so the surge probably won’t have spun up too badly by then. The current NWS forecast is 1-1.5′ surge. Seas much less than the last storm.

The big forecast problem is the possibility of a second storm almost immediately in its wake late Tuesday afternoon and evening. The very short spacing between storms is an odd scenario but, these days, we see lots of odd stuff. Right now only the Euro model builds much of a storm. The track is further west, however, so raises precipitation issues as well as high winds. The upper level disturbance driving the development of this storm is just now coming ashore on the West Coast. It will take 1-2 model runs (6-12 hours) to digest the probabilities so this evening’s forecast models should provide decent guidance.
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Voltaire

Posted by: coastlinesproject | February 4, 2016

Gloucester, drone footage of Soone’s Court shorefront development.




Read more in William Sargent’s new book, Plum Island; 4,000

Years on a Barrier Beach is available in local bookstores and through


Posted by: coastlinesproject | February 3, 2016

Extreme weather Mid-West and South



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