El Niño impacts on CA estuaries

Sarah Giddingsnews

A recent paper in Estuaries & Coasts by graduate student Maddie Harvey investigates the “Effects of Elevated Sea Levels and Waves on Southern California Estuaries During the 2015–2016 El Niño.” The 2015-2016 El Niño resulted in larger waves and water levels along with lower than usual precipitation along the Southern California coastline. This allowed for an opportunity to investigate estuarine response to these types of extreme forcing conditions, which may be expected under future climate scenarios. Collaborations with multiple co-authors resulted in comparing observations from 13 Southern California estuaries. Important results of this paper highlight the different response of intermittently closed estuaries relative to perennially open estuaries. Intermittently closed estuaries experienced enhanced higher-high water levels during large wave events, and tides were truncated during low tide due to a sill at the estuary mouth. The overall number and length of closures were increased during the 2015–2016 El Niño relative to a typical year.