In January 2023, a bomb cyclone unleashed a massive swell that decimated a marina in Southern California, spotlighting the vulnerability of coastal infrastructure to extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. The storm’s damage also left hundreds of thousands without power, while falling trees resulted in at least three deaths. As the frequency and intensity of such disasters increase, the importance of building resilient marinas cannot be overstated – and that begins with the mooring systems that hold them in place.

A bomb cyclone, or explosive cyclogenesis, is a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure caused by the clash of cold polar air and warm tropical air. While not new, these powerful storms may become more frequent and intense due to climate change. Bomb cyclones undergo a process of rapid intensification, with atmospheric pressure dropping at an average of 24 millibars within 24 hours. The Southern California marina was caught off guard when the bomb cyclone’s massive swell hit at low tide, amplifying the destructive power of the waves. At low tide, there is less water over a break and at high tide there is more water. The depth of the water affects wave formation. Docks, boats, and infrastructure suffered extensive damage, with costly repairs and a long recovery ahead.

Low tides can make marinas even more vulnerable to swells by exposing more of the seabed and allowing waves to build in power. On a smaller swell, a low tide can make waves break because there is less water to get through, and high tide can slow it down. Understanding these complex tidal phenomena is crucial for predicting and preparing for coastal weather events. By integrating technical insights into marina design and operations, we can better safeguard our facilities against the escalating risks of climate change.

The Southern California disaster prompted a swift response from government agencies, which are now assessing the environmental impact and exploring preventive measures for the future. Recent storms have shown us the cost of inaction. Marinas have faced significant damage. Investing in coastal defenses, enhancing early warning systems, and educating the public will be key to mitigating the risks of extreme weather events. But marinas cannot wait for others to act – they must take a proactive role in strengthening their infrastructure and developing robust response plans.

The economic and ecological toll of the disaster has been profound, affecting not just the marina but the entire local community and the delicate marine ecosystem it supports. Europe’s marine areas and marine life are unequally vulnerable to climate change. Recent research indicates that climate change may account for widespread changes in marine ecosystems. As environmental experts assess the long-term damage, it’s clear that our actions today will shape the resilience of our coastal communities for generations to come.

This is not just a local issue – similar disasters are occurring worldwide, demanding a global response to the challenge of climate change. Climate change is worsening hurricane impacts in the United States by increasing the intensity and decreasing the speed at which they travel. By sharing knowledge, technologies, and best practices, we can work together to build more resilient marinas and coastal communities.

The road to recovery for the Southern California marina will be long, but it offers a chance to rebuild better. By prioritizing innovative, eco-friendly solutions like elastic mooring systems, marinas can not only withstand future disasters, but also minimize their impact on the marine environment. It’s a chance to demonstrate that resilience and sustainability go hand in hand in the face of climate change.

At Hazelett Marine we’re committed to supporting marinas in this critical mission. Our mooring systems are designed to absorb the shock of extreme weather, reducing the risk of damage and downtime. But we also recognize that resilience means more than just withstanding disasters – it means thriving in harmony with the marine ecosystem. Helical anchors, also known as screw anchors or screw piles, are gaining favor as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional mooring systems. That’s why we’re dedicated to developing mooring solutions that minimize seabed impact and support biodiversity.

As marinas look to the future, they must confront the reality of a changing climate and take proactive steps to adapt. Three key trends will shape the future of new coastal protection and marina infrastructure as it is reconceived and adapted for climate change. By investing in resilient, eco-friendly mooring systems, they can help ensure the long-term viability of their operations while supporting the health of our oceans. It’s a challenge we must rise to meet – for the sake of our marinas, our communities, and the planet we all share.

Discover how Hazelett can help your marina build resilience for the future. Contact us to learn more about our mooring solutions and how we can support your mission to withstand the tests of time and nature.