SAN DIEGO — The storms and strong waves hitting our coastline are pushing shells and all kinds of things people love to find on the beach. But not everyone loves everything.
At Torrey Pines State Beach, rocks have covered the walkway that leads out to the beach and the sidewalk up to the Pacific Coast Highway. The staircase from the beach to the park’s bluff trails has turned into a ramp of rocks. In Encinitas, the staircases are covered in rocks.
CBS 8 Meteorologist Shawn Styles said a combination of one of the giant swells in 20+ years, January’s King Tides gave the ability for the rocks to be moved.
We spoke with Darren Smith, a senior environmental scientist for California State Parks. He said they would clean the sidewalks and staircases by pushing the rocks onto the beach. But they don’t groom the beach or remove the rocks from it. They only move rock if it blocks a sidewalk or walkway.
Smith said the ocean brings all the rocks there, like the shoreline protecting itself because it protects the bluffs from erosion.
These aren’t any old rocks you’re walking on and from your favorite beach - They’re called cobbles or a cobble. According to scientists, they’re piling up on our coastline because of the largest ground swells in 20 years combined with a King Tide on Jan. 7 and Jan. 13.
Adam Young, a Coastal Geomorphologist at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, studies coastal processes and erosion and studies beach cobble to understand better where and how the cobbles move.
“We've had very significant waves this winter, and it's doing things to our beaches we haven't seen before," Young said.
When San Diego has big storms, sand washes into the ocean, and the cobbles move on shore.
They’re not in piles out in the ocean; they’re buried sporadically under the sand.
“We don't know how deep they are on the beach or where they are located offshore exactly,” Young said. He said they could pile up in front of our cliffs, help prevent the wave's impact and stop erosion.
Young's team put tiny sensors inside hundreds of cobbles at Torrey Pines.
The red dots in this animation move onshore, offshore, and down the coast.
WATCH RELATED: Recent storms, King Tides move 'cobbles' to San Diego County shorelines (Jan. 2023).
The cobbles get pushed high up on the beach when San Diego beaches have large waves like we’ve seen this month.
Once the water goes back down and the sand with it, there the cobbles sit. And now they’re piled up at beach access staircases and walkways.
Young said they’ve never seen them built up this much, so they’re unsure when or if the piles will go down.
"It'll be interesting to see and watch how they behave in the spring.”
WATCH RELATED: How do the waves stay outside of The Marine Room in La Jolla? (Jan. 2023).
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