New Study May Lead to Rip Current Forecasts for U.S. Beaches

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla., Oct. 13 (UPI) — A U.S. study has found rip currents pose a greater risk to swimmers than to shorelines.

Rip currents — powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from the shore — are responsible for more than 100 deaths on U.S. beaches each year, the United States Lifesaving Association said. And if rip currents persist long enough, they can cause beach erosion.

Stony Brook University Professor Henry Bokuniewicz and doctoral student Michael Slattery said they conducted long-term monitoring of frequent, but short-lived, rip currents occurring at East Hampton (N.Y.) Village Beach. They discovered routine rip currents lasted, on average, a little more than one minute — not long enough to substantially alter the shoreline.

The researchers also studied the wave patterns that lead to rip currents by deploying seismometers to measure the noise created by breaking waves.

“It appears that very slow, long-period changes in the amount of wave noise are precursors to the generation of rip currents,” said Bokuniewicz. “We are hopeful that seismometers can be used to measure wave patterns that we can’t easily observe in any other way.

“In the future,” he added, “we hope to utilize this method to monitor and ultimately forecast wave conditions that cause rip currents.”

Bokuniewicz and Slattery were to present their findings Wednesday at St. Pete Beach, Fla., during the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association’s National Coastal Conference.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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