February 9, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tina Haisman, ASBPA Media Relations, 239-292-2882 or firstname.lastname@example.org
America's shorelines stay active despite the weather
FORT MYERS, FL -- People may forget about their beach when winter's winds blow and icy waves claw at the sands. But there's still a lot happening along the shivering shoreline. The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association has developed a quick quiz to point some of this out.
1) True or false: Nor'easters are the only weather system that brings dramatic changes to the winter beach.
ANSWER: FALSE. Far from it, as the people along the Pacific Coast can attest after January's parade of El Niño storms brought high waves, near-hurricane force wind and other wild weather in from the Pacific. Even strong cold fronts pushing into the Gulf Coast can bring higher-than-normal waves to accelerate erosion -- although nothing like the Atlantic nor'easters or Pacific El Niños.
2) True or false: Sand lost to winter storms will eventually return to the beach.
ANSWER: TRUE, mostly. If the storm waves are strong enough to pull the sand out of the nearshore system into deeper waters (as can happen with powerful Pacific storms) or it is lost to nearby inlets (as can happen in the Atlantic), that sand may not be able to find its way back to the shoreline through natural migration. Usually, however, winter storms strip sands from beaches to nearshore bars, where waves will eventually return much of the sand landward to the beach in a reasonable (for geology) amount of time.
3) True or false: There's very little flora and fauna activity on a winter beach.
ANSWER: FALSE. While the forbiddingly frigid shoreline is less busy as a habitat, there are still plenty of organisms who survive year-round on the beach -- albeit with a lower profile. Of course, if your winter beach is in a warmer climate, more migratory species of birds and fish often follow the warmer temps, bringing a new look to the southern winter beachfront as they rest and nest.
4) True or false: Nor'easters are just like hurricanes, just in the winter instead of summer.
ANSWER: FALSE. While both are low-pressure systems, hurricanes thrive on warm temperatures, have to reach a certain wind speed to be deemed a hurricane, and can occur anywhere in the Atlantic of Gulf. Nor'easters, by contrast, are cold-core systems powered by a collision of cold and warm air, plus moisture, and they can vary wildly in wind speeds (but can reach hurricane strength and will intensify as they push up a coastline). Nor'easters are so named for their somewhat specific track -- starting out as a low-pressure system in the Gulf, turned by a Bermuda high to run along the east coast of U.S. and Canada, and finally reaching a peak in the Arctic waters of the North Atlantic -- and the predominant direction of the winds they generate. Of course, both hurricanes and nor'easters can be very destructive events for beaches.
5) True or false: A nor'easter once helped create a coastal national park.
ANSWER: TRUE. The Ash Wednesday storm of 1962 is credited with spurring the creation of the Assateague Island National Seashore, 30+ miles of protected shoreline on the Virginia-Maryland coast. The powerful storm destroyed infrastructure being built on the island in advance of plans to develop the 5,000 or so private lots there. This sparked its eventual acquisition and preservation as a national park.
For more information about the winter beach, visit www.asbpa.org .
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ABOUT ASBPA: Founded in 1926, the ASBPA promotes the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org, facebook or www.twitter.com/asbpa.