Citizen Nino: Who Wants To Help Researchers Document El Nino?

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Drought Tracker / El Nino Update – January 2016

El Nino San Diego KPBS
Thanks to KPBS Drought Tracker: Rainfall data comes from a weighted average of 96 weather stations throughout the state. Snowpack data represents the average of three different multi-station measures of the northern, central and southern Sierra snowpack. Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers, through the California Nevada Applications Program RISA and the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, helped compile the data.

San Diego may have been drenched by El Niño-driven storms this week. But the latest update from the KPBS Drought Tracker shows the rest of California is still on track for a relatively average wet season

Scripps Seeks Jimmy Olsen – Cub Reporters

Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography are recruiting amateur scientists (you) and the public to help monitor coastal erosion and shoreline damage.

As one of the largest El Niños in recent years continues to develop in the Pacific Ocean, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is calling on the public to help document a historic climate event.

You can view more local bluff erosion news here.

Just what is El Nino? See below.

Scripps Oceanography’s “citizen science” projects will focus on data collection to document the impact of large waves on beach erosion and coastal flooding. Citizen science contributions may range from photographs to measurements of water temperatures and other environmental variables that are important to ongoing scientific research.

The executive director of the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) and the Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP), is hoping that members of the public will send in high-resolution photographs of damage caused by storms along the Southern California coastline, showing the impact of waves on the beaches. The photo record can validate the simulations that are part of ongoing research to measure the impact of waves on the shoreline.

“Geo-referenced, high-resolution photographs of coastal flooding and inundation during energetic wave events can be used to correlate wave heights collected by the CDIP buoys,” Julie Thomas, executive director said.

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Funded by the California Department of Boating and Waterways and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, CDIP real-time wave information can be found at

Thomas is also looking for repeatability of photos over time.

“If someone takes photos from the exact same location during high tide everyday for a specified period of time, this could also help us quantify the effects of large waves causing seawall damage or damage to the shoreline,” said Thomas.

Scripps oceanographer Sarah Giddings, who studies nearshore and surf zone processes, will be observing how physics impacts important biological and chemical processes in the coastal environment. Giddings is interested in monitoring the effects of an El Niño on estuaries (bays, lagoons, harbors, or marshes) along the Southern California coast.

Giddings will be working with a high school environmental science class to monitor the salinity, temperature, and depth of estuaries to better understand the characteristics of estuaries, and how an estuary responds to El Niño.

“This experiment will help us understand how the water circulates in the estuary and how oxygen levels increase or decrease after a big storm, and, how this affects marine ecology in the estuary,” she said.

Giddings will partner with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) to engage with cities and counties to study smaller estuaries. Specifically, the researchers hope to obtain before-and-after photos of high-tide events along as much of the California coastline as possible.

“These before-and-after photos will be a good indicator of future sea-level conditions. Extreme sea events are likely to occur more often as the ocean responds to climate change,” said Giddings.

Gallien says that these data sets will help with flood mapping, observing morphological change along the shoreline, estuaries, and other habitats.

“The size of the beach matters, and we will watch the coastline closely if this El Niño happens,” said Gallien.

How To Participate

Those wishing to contribute photos of storm events along the coast or to obtain more information on how to help document this year’s El Niño can e-mail researchers at

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