Seven days worth of data gathering cause alarming headline: “Global warming’s next surprise: Saltier beaches”

From the NEW JERSEY INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY and the “oceans are dying up” department comes this new worry that I’m pretty sure I don’t believe one bit.

Salt along the shore of the Dead Sea Image: Wikipedia

Salt along the shore of the Dead Sea Image: Wikipedia

Why? Because we’ve also been told that global warming will cause more rainfall, thus increasing freshwater stream outflow and freshwater ground recharge.

Plus that, the study data gathering looks to be flawed from the start as they say: “The team analyzed nearly 400 sediment samples collected during the sequential phases of a complete tidal cycle, from day to night, on seven discontinuous days.” Seven days? One beach? That’s not enough to say anything useful about trends, nor to extrapolate to local, regional, or global climate. They say “These elevated levels can only be caused by evaporation…”. Well sure, It’s called weather. Changes in weather cause changes in evaporation. If they were really thorough scientists, they would have setup an evapotranspiration measuring weather station nearby…so that they could factor in the changes in weather to their study. In fact, the word evapotranspiration doesn’t even appear in the paper. Here is what they say:

Our results (Figs 2 and S3–S8) suggest that the measured subsurface intertidal salinity, especially in the top beach layers, correlated strongly with the diurnal cycle. In the morning, humid atmospheric conditions resulted in negligible or no evaporation from the beach. During daylight, especially around noon, the relatively high air temperature and low humidity caused high evaporation, extracting pore water from the beach and leaving the salt behind, thereby resulting in high salinity near the beach surface.

Well, yes, but if you were measuring temperature, humidity, and solar radiation, such as an evapotranspiration [station] would do, they could correlate increased evaporation to weather conditions that were measured at the time at the beach along with their monitoring wells.

Instead, what they’ve done is lazy; they took seven days worth of data, extrapolated it to a global effect, and simply blamed the universal boogeyman, “global warming” and not looked beyond their own noses, then had an eye-catching headline created with their press release.

What a sad state of science this is.


Global warming’s next surprise: Saltier beaches

Batches of sand from a beach on the Delaware Bay are yielding insights into the powerful impact of temperature rise and evaporation along the shore that are in turn challenging long-held assumptions about what causes beach salinity to fluctuate in coastal zones that support a rich network of sea creatures and plants.

The findings have implications for the migration and survival of invertebrates such as mussels and crabs as global warming drives temperatures higher.

A first major study of the effects of evaporation on the flow of subsurface water and salinity, or salt content, in the beach intertidal zone – the section of the beach between the low and high tide marks – is being published today in Scientific Reports, an online affiliate of Nature.

The study, by New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Center for Natural Resources Development (CNRDP) and led by two environmental engineers and a coastal geologist, shows that sediments from some sections of Slaughter Beach in Delaware have salt concentrations four times as high as the ocean water that washes over them. The finding came as a surprise.

The nearshore seawater the team measured had salt concentrations of 25 grams per liter (g/L), leading the researchers to expect that the subsurface water in areas of the beach it infiltrated would have similar or even lower levels as seawater mixes with inland groundwater in this zone. However, they discovered that the average salinity in the upper intertidal zone – the high tide line – was 60 g/L, with some values reaching as high as 100.

Four piezometer wells (PW1−PW4) were installed along the intertidal zone of the beach to monitor groundwater table fluctuation due to tidal action. The mean sea level was assigned as the elevation datum (0.0 m). Major processes of subsurface pore water flow and salt fate are illustrated in the Figure, including the upper saline plume, the freshwater discharge tube, the classic saltwater wedge, and pore water evaporation from the beach surface. Note the exaggerated vertical scale. The map of the studied site is obtained from Jackson et al.

Four piezometer wells (PW1−PW4) were installed along the intertidal zone of the beach to monitor groundwater table fluctuation due to tidal action. The mean sea level was assigned as the elevation datum (0.0 m). Major processes of subsurface pore water flow and salt fate are illustrated in the Figure, including the upper saline plume, the freshwater discharge tube, the classic saltwater wedge, and pore water evaporation from the beach surface. Note the exaggerated vertical scale. The map of the studied site is obtained from Jackson et al.

“These elevated levels can only be caused by evaporation, as there is no other mechanism for increasing the salt in pore water – the water trapped between the grains of sediment,” said Xiaolong Geng, a postdoctoral fellow at NJIT and the principal author of the study, noting that the rates of evaporation – and salinity – are thus mainly determined by temperature and relative humidity, while tide and wave flows dilute a beach’s salt content.

“Previous studies have identified seawater as the primary source of salinity in coastal aquifer systems, thereby concluding that seawater infiltration always increases pore-water salinity by seawater-groundwater mixing dynamics,” said Michel Boufadel, director of the CNRDP, who is also an author of the study. “Based on what we learned, we think this finding should alter the way water management in coastal areas is conducted.”

The team analyzed nearly 400 sediment samples collected during the sequential phases of a complete tidal cycle, from day to night, on seven discontinuous days.

The intertidal, or littoral, zone, is a dynamic habitat, washed by seawater at high tide and uncovered at low tide, that is favored by crabs, mussels and sea anemones, the birds and sea mammals that feed on them, and plants such as kelp. Many of these animals burrow in the beach to find food and to seek protection from predators and the action of waves, and are in near constant contact with pore water.

The researchers have developed models that show that increases in temperature associated with global warming will not only make inland locations more salty, but would also create drastically different pattern of pore water salinity that will have implications for animals and plants in the intertidal zone.

“Evaporation is an important driver of underground water flow and salinity gradients, and animals such as mussels and crabs are affected by changes in salinity. If the concentrations are too high or too low, they will move away,” noted Geng.

Nancy Jackson, a professor of coastal geomorphology in the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science and the study’s third author, collected the beach samples from Slaughter Beach and provided interpretations of pore water dynamics.

###

The paper:

Evidence of salt accumulation in beach intertidal zone due to evaporation

Abstract:

In coastal environments, evaporation is an important driver of subsurface salinity gradients in marsh systems. However, it has not been addressed in the intertidal zone of sandy beaches. Here, we used field data on an estuarine beach foreshore with numerical simulations to show that evaporation causes upper intertidal zone pore-water salinity to be double that of seawater. We found the increase in pore-water salinity mainly depends on air temperature and relative humidity, and tide and wave actions dilute a fraction of the high salinity plume, resulting in a complex process. This is in contrast to previous studies that consider seawater as the most saline source to a coastal aquifer system, thereby concluding that seawater infiltration always increases pore-water salinity by seawater-groundwater mixing dynamics. Our results demonstrate the combined effects of evaporation and tide and waves on subsurface salinity distribution on a beach face. We anticipate our quantitative investigation will shed light on the studies of salt-affected biological activities in the intertidal zone. It also impacts our understanding of the impact of global warming; in particular, the increase in temperature does not only shift the saltwater landward, but creates a different salinity distribution that would have implications on intertidal biological zonation.

http://www.nature.com/articles/srep31486

 

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109 thoughts on “Seven days worth of data gathering cause alarming headline: “Global warming’s next surprise: Saltier beaches”

  1. That is true. Here in the Powder River Basin you can drive around and see salt flats all over in the farm areas. Salt Lake City?

    • From the NEW JERSEY INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY and the “oceans are dying up” department comes this new worry that I’m pretty sure I don’t believe one bit.
      @ Mod , dying up? maybe drying up?

      {Left as-found, the author has it already in quotation marks. Beside, with the latest acceleration” in sea level rise, “drying up” is not correct either. Then again, drought are said to be increasing. .mod]

    • Don’t knock it, this person when they get their PhD shingle, will be the world’s leading authority on salty beaches.

      If (s)he posts a phone number or e-mail addy, I’ll be glad to notify that person whenever I see a newspaper ad wanting to hire a salty beach expert.

      g

    • The sad part is they don’t even have to grade stupid on a curve and no remedial courses are required for their culturally disadvantaged students.

    • Many years ago when I was at the University, the easiest courses on campus were sociology and psychology. And, a B was guaranteed unless you dropped out. Classes were full of people from the athletic department, and graduating engineers looking for one more non-technical elective.
      Now, the easiest course on campus is often environmental science (which is sometimes a thinly disguised global warming class), and is often filled the same people as before plus quite a few global warming leftists loonies.

      • I thought I was the only one who considered psych and soc to be the easiest courses and degrees one could get? Glad to know my theory has been substantiated. Every one of the summa cum laude and cum laude graduates in my class were in those two fields.

        Every. Last. One.

    • It’s hard to design and conduct a GOOD experiment. And if there are lots of research funding looking for a use, there is no reason to do so.

  2. Where does the extra salt come from if sealevel is rising surely salinity will decrease otherwise? On a similar vein, if the amount of seawater increases how does that effect pH? Does it dilute acid or alkalai?

      • Get with the program, global warming causes things like more and less snowfall so of course it also causes more and less ocean salt content from more and less glacier melt.

    • Not going to defend the work, but if I understand it then…

      There is a zone of salt-water where the water evaporation in the sand leaves a saltier brine behind loosely locked up in the pores of the sand. So instead of the salt-water between the pores having the same or less salt per unit of water, it has more. This surprised them. Note only water in the sand would show this relationship – you need the water cohesion with the sand (or dirt) to keep it from simple mixing back into the ocean.

      Assuming that the amount of water in the ocean is rising (I think it is naturally but again, not going to defend this) then the overall ratio of salt to water would be slight lower, but in these tidal areas where water evaporation is working, the water remains saltier than the ocean.

      If ocean levels rise, then this area they are measuring would on average move inwards. (well duh!)

      How any of this is a big surprise is confusing. I guess they thought that fresh water infiltrating from land would reduce the salt ratio in the sand they are studying. This is likely true when close to fresh water aquifers and springs, but false in most cases.

      How this has ANYTHING to do with global warming is a complete mystery. If global warming increases rainfall, so there is more runoff, then areas near springs and aquifers will get even less salty, but most areas will remain about the same in saltiness (but move inland if the oceans rise).

      I think global warming is mentioned to get attention. I see absolutely no other reason to bring it up.

    • I could believe 7th grade science fair project. It’s far too simplistic for 9th grade (freshman) science.

    • We did studies like this during an environmental science field course for first-year undergraduates, and we used geophysics (resistivity surveying) to plot the freshwater-salt water interface. What amazes me most, other than the belief of the authors that they were finding anything new, is that it gets published by Nature!! How low has that formerly prestigious journal, its editors and peer reviewers fallen.

    • You don’t get it. Why would they take data on 7 discontinuous days? Answer: To get 7 paid vacations at the beach!

  3. But, sea level is going up, ergo, more water and less salinity right?
    I’d take this study with a grain of salt.

  4. Would this bit of “research” get you beyond your Community’s Hi-School Science-Fair to the Regionals?
    I think not……

    • P.S. to last …..
      *Everyone* is rushing to join the band-wagon and establish ‘street-cred’ out of anything that *they* can conjure as a result of AGW.
      A dead squirrel dropped out of my tree last week ….. is there a PhD in researching this as attributable to GW?
      Folks, it seems to have got to Lowest Common Denominator of trying to find a way — any way — on to The Gravy Train of grant-allocation, aka job-creation.

  5. News at 11: second (or third?) rated educational institution (New Jersey Institute of Technology) produced junk science. Among those climaterish studies poked here in the past how many were produced by ivy-league universities?

    • Would “Climateurish” be a tad better?
      Which advances the emergent(?) phraseology of “Climateurship” and all derivatives.
      Pause for reflection: In 20 seconds, name the top Climateurists you know?
      My list starts with Al Gore and — in no particular order — Emma Thomson, Monbiot, the excruciatingly self-promotional diCaprio ………
      I challenge readers to submit their own lists of Climateurs (bonus points for the most outspoken yet least educated in the relevant science(s?)

  6. Oh yes, saltier beaches – the bane of mankind and the environment. What can we do?

    I am still waiting for a study to come out, at a cost of millions of dollars, that will declare the scientific truth that global warming will make temperatures rise.

  7. Good God……..Even 14 year old school science projects are better than this. Or maybe it is actually a 12 year old school science project.

  8. They claim the climate is changing faster than ever and millions of people will be flooded out of the thousands of coastal cities due to rising seas.
    Wouldn’t saltier oceans be a good thing?
    It will be easier for all the climate refugees that get caught by surprise to float on the water.

  9. The figure looks nearly identical to one contained in a 40 year old geology textbook showing to how dolomitic replacement of limestone occurs. No big deal, nothing new here

  10. Interesting paper, but difficult to connect the various factors. This is an estuarine beach, unless I missed something they did not consider fluctuations from freshwater input. Delaware Bay has a long history of water use from the river. The salinity of the bay should be the background level, varying by season, year, etc.

    Long way from the worst I have read, but being from the Gulf wonder why the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative funded this. We have saltier beaches.

  11. But, but, but, Did they properly correct for all the suntan lotion dripping off of all those salty beach goers….

    What is the salt content of suntan lotion, opps, UV protective lotion, anyway ? I’m sure a proper experiment should account for that….

    I think a proper experiment would include at least 100 bikini clad women slathered in SFP 20 rolling around in one part of the beach and of course another 100 bikini clad women sans SFP 20 rolling around on another part of the beach.

    I would volunteer pro bono to collect observations for such a study, heck I would extend it to a whole summer instead of just 7 measly days…. But I would have to restrict myself to just a single beach, I would not want to lose valuable observation time traveling between beaches, there is a scientific method that has to be honored after all…

    Could also be 200 men, or whatever mix gets volunteer observers to turn out….

    Cheers, KevinK

    • Certainly they will qualify for future funding for a more intimate examination; this was only their first paper to test the`water…

  12. “Previous studies have identified seawater as the primary source of salinity in coastal aquifer systems”

    Really, I mean really….

    What next; “Previous studies have identified burning wood as the primary source of heat in campfires” ???

    Jeeze, somebody actually did a study to figure out that the salt around the edges of the Oceans is probably coming from the SALTWATER ????

    Cheers, KevinK

    • Well, in this case it might just be PIER reviewed, they probably went to a pier with an alcohol dispensing establishment and reviewed their good fortune at getting funding for this “study”.

  13. But it must be true. The paper had maps n diagrams n everthing. Why would they lie or vene just do junk sciency schtuff? Funding? Surely not.

    /sarc

  14. Who thinks up these stories? Must have been a slow semester…or its become mandatory for schools that take federal aid, they have to publish a story about how bad AGW is. So they sit around thinking up the most ridiculous story… so does the ocean become less salty? Oh, oh,… they can go to the Jersey shore were they dredge up sand off shore to rebuild the beaches.. wait ! … oh no sea level rise. Will the horrors never End? Shouldn’t the beaches be under water ? I wish I was a climate scientist so I could understand all this… (sarc )

  15. Ridiculous. Such a study would require data over a hundred years. In some areas, like the Red Sea, over thousands. Likewise, areas in California have drought cycles that are measured in hundreds of years. Don’t these people know this?

  16. Perfect spot for a 3 billion dollar desalination plant to pump back fresh water and powered by 3 million Chinese made wind turbines (sarc).

  17. This is all perfectly logical once you realize that the oceans are rising-falling. While they are rising due to ice melt from climate change and the rise is accelerating, the oceans are drying up from climate change. So what this means is that the oceans at salty places are falling while in other places are rising and the end result will be a huge mountain of water in the center of the ocean basins with nothing but salt flats at the coasts because of the rising-falling. This is basically caused by influx-evaporation. While there is a huge influx of new meltwater, this will apparently all accumulate in the center of the ocean basis while the coasts all see the ocean evaporate away. This will create new industries for ships with much more powerful engines needed to climb up and over the giant mountain of water in the center of the basin.

  18. The paper is not a climate study in any sense. It expressly addresses a known phenomenon that would be invariant regardless of sea level or climate. The authors assert that the common explanation for the phenomenon in question is mistaken because it ignores the effect of evaporation. In fact none of the three mentions (two text and one citation) does anything to either help or bolster the paper. In fact, as can be seen from Anthony’s response, they are a distraction that confuses the reader regarding purpose of the paper unless you are a very sceptical reader.

    I suspect the mention of “climate change” in the Abstract was not written by the authors of the study. It is in the last, completely useless, off-topic sentence in the Abstract. The sole mention of Global Warming or any of its putative “effects” is a single occurrence is in the last sentence in the Abstract, and was likely added on by an editor at Nature since it is not germane to the paper in any fashion. In effect, it is a throw-away mention, and is quite clearly an afterthought in the Abstract.

    There are two other mentions of “climate change:” one in an “e.g.” comment (again a useless, off-topic insertion), which is unsupported by a citation. A citation also appears, listed just once, again serving no informative purpose. The reader only discovers that the citation makes a reference to climate change if they bother to check the references. These pointless mentions should probably be blamed on Nature rather than the authors. In fact there is no mention of sea level rise in the paper at all. The best explanation for the pointless – and very limited – mention of “climate change” in any sense is best attributed to either Nature editor or peer review pollution.

    The study in the paper is an empirical measurement of the behaviour of salinity in water in pore spaces in sandy sediments in an inter-tidal beach environment. As a hydrological or geological study it seems quite reasonable. Wells are drilled to actually monitor the phenomenon in question and a small longitudinal data set was collected, adequate to determine if the “just-so” story that has been assumed true for a long time actually fit the behaviour of the phenomenon. The actual observations are that salt concentrations in pores could reach levels that only halophilic bacteria would tolerate, far above sea water values, and were a function of topographic position. NOTE AGAIN, this process cannot be something “new.” It is a pattern that has to have been operating since the oceans first became salty. The authors say: Therefore, topography [emph. added] could be another factor affecting subsurface salt distribution in coastal beaches subjected to evaporation, tides and waves, which needs to be considered in future. None of this has anything to do with climate change, nor do the authors claim it does. They DO make a plug for a bigger study, so the throw away mentions and citation might also be money bait though that seems doubtful given the content.

    The likely impetus of the study has to do with beach restoration and preservation work. The study was undertaken on just such a beach according to the introductory information in the paper. On the Pacific coast the Corps waged a campaign from several years to stabilize beach dunes. They discovered that the action had a good many unplanned, unintended consequences that seriously degraded the beaches and near shore environments. (In fact the work inspired Frank Herbert to write Dune according to Herbert himself). They are now in the process of trying to undo the damage without losing entire towns and housing developments to mobilized dunes. It would clearly behoove agencies to better understand what they are dealing with.

    In short folks, the paper is a report on a small, pilot study of a hypothesis regarding a known shoreline phenomenon. It has nothing to do with climate.

    [Effective analysis. But it registers as another “climate change is proven” paper for the next Orestes paper count in the Nature imaginazine. .mod]

    • Other than the location of the study, there is little that is new. As to the claim that evaporation is ignored elsewhere, this is incorrect. The authors should be introduced to the existence of coastal sabkhas where, in hotter climates, salts accumulate in upper intertidal and supratidal settings. Better still, they should reference a huge literature on environmental changes in rock pools, where low tide conditions are commonly associated with huge salinity changes due to evaporation. Why should they be surprised if the same evapoation affects sandy beaches?

      • Cargill salt ponds, south bay, east side. Boneheaded environmentalists ripped out abandoned wooden brine pumps that were based on Archimedes Screw. They were exceptional photographic subjects. The originals were also wind-powered and the remains of some of the vanes. If you can get into Cragill’s office in Newark, they have a scale model of the old pumps. That area has been used for salt production for over a century. Now the place is a wildlife sanctuary densely populated by self-righteous vegans.

    • Just another catastrophic event caused by AGW.

      I do feel bad if that’s the case where a publication takes the research out of context and attributes it to their cause celeb. Nature is really reaching with both hands to the bottom of the barrel for anything that might remotely look a consequence of global warming.

      On the out side chance that Nature happens to think that CAGW is a about as dumb as you can get. Linking salt on the beach with global warming clearly illustrates it.

      Next up, global warming and strange particles interacting with charmed ones. Coincidence?

    • Well said duster. People on this site routinely complain about models and people not doing direct experimentation and observation. Even if their study was not a novel discovery as Alan Kendall suggests, at least it appears to be novel to them. They had a question, they did some work to understand it, and then they told the rest of the world what they have learned so far. Is it the equivocal answer after seven days on one beach with no reference evapotranspiration station? – of course not. But science has a great tradition of working in increments. Was this a large enough increment of knowledge to bother publishing? Fair question, maybe not. Did they interpret their findings correctly? Another fair question. I agree the global warming add on is tacky, but in today’s publishing/funding world let’s separate criticism of the study from criticism of the choice to link global warming. Don’t throw babies out with bath water.

  19. Global warming was behind the Australian Census fiasco. Or, at least, it didn’t help it. It’s clear that the fiasco is unprecedented and comes at a time when CO2 is 400ppm. Model following.

    • ROFLMAO! its the ONLY thing malc or any of the other fools hasnt managed to blame..how remiss, we should drop some comments into aunty re this matter
      i BET theyd try n give it legs ;-)

  20. These writers don’t qualify for the term scientist. They reckon that CAGW will kill off the crabs & other invertebrates on the beaches due to rising salinity. They should have cast their minds back 15,000 years to the beginning of this inter-glacial, & thought about what happened to the crabs of the day, as the seas rose 120 metres in a few thousand years. I would imagine that the seas, before that monumental rise, were a lot saltier than they are now – but the critters survived that change – despite having to continuously move inland to follow the beaches. A big FAIL for these cheap grant-seekers.

  21. This is not science, as in OP, rain. Yes salts gets trapped in sand from incoming waves, but it get washed out by rain out too.

    The less rain a beach sees the more saltier the sand i’d imagine but the changes are a normal stable trend I’d imagine. I seriously doubt Ireland’s beaches have gotten any saltier, especially beaches on the west coast of Ireland D

    Doing a 7 day sample study allowed them to omit the fact that over longer observations there will be no trend.

  22. Let’s put the ‘oceans evaporating’ crowd in the same room with the ‘massive sea level rise’ crowd, and let them slug it out. Could be amusing.

  23. What a sad state of science this is.

    That’s the problem—this isn’t science, it’s propaganda. Science would control for obvious variables which the peer-review process should be asking to determine the paper’s validity. Since it ignores the most fundamental question—correlating results to weather conditions—any conclusion it makes should be wrapped in a BIG red flag.

  24. I stopped reading at 2 environmental engineers and a coastal geologist. Um…where was their marine biologist? Oh wait, the marine bio washed their hands of such a b.s. study.

    • Isn’t that a joke:

      So an environmental engineer, a coastal geologist and a climate scientist walk into a bar.

      CS: It’s going to get real hot.
      CG: We’d better have a beer then
      EG: Let’s go over to those people at the table over there and scare them into buying us pints.

  25. This was published by Nature which has gone so far down the climate change rabbit hole of corruption, that I am guessing Nature “suggested” the authors put a plug in for climate change prior to publication. Put another way, mention climate change or don’t get published.

    I do not know what the core value of this research is, it may be a good start to some interesting research, I don’t know. However I do know it is clearly laughable to tie it to climate change.

    BTW I am applying for a grant to find links between Viagra,climate change and the chicken populations of southern Arizona. What can I say, people like chicken, sex sells and so does climate change.

  26. I’m getting tired of sounding hyperbolic but how could any scientist – worth their salt – not have heard of the Pan Evaporation Paradox!

    If climate is warming, a more energetic hydrologic cycle is expected implying an increase in evaporation. However, observations of pan evaporation across the U.S. and the globe show a decreasing trend in pan evaporation. – J.A. Ramirez, Colorado State University

    For 50 years from 1950 the trend was going down*.

    *I’ve found it hard to find current figures to 2016 but I’m pretty sure the trend hasn’t changed significantly! So what ever it is they are talking about in this toilet paper, it flies in the face of peer reviewed observation!

    • It looks like the pan evaporation stabilized in 2000 after a slight 1990-2000 recovery.

      Since 2000 it is hard to make an argument that pan evaporation is increasing.

      • Thank you PA.

        I knew the graph looked something like this! It demonstrates that the observations do not support the paper and by decoupling GW and evaporation rates they completely falsify its major premise!

  27. So? Alarmists are like the talking heads you’ve worked with, but trying to keep their name prominent. Some skeptics aren’t a great deal better, flapping at the smallest thing without researching well.
    Need good integrated articles.

  28. That’s a tour de force : sea levels are supposed to be rising, but oceans are now also supposed to be drying up ? Yesss…

  29. High summer, August in the NH, always results in saltier inshore water, I am embarrassed to say, Try February.

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