SAN DIEGO — When storms hit California in January and February, the sand moved all over the place at beaches up and down the coast.

Scientists at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography are using a tricked-out jet ski, complete with GPS, sonar and other tools to figure out where the sand went. The jet ski drives in lawnmower like patterns close to the shore and out a short distance and back to collect measurements. The data will help the team put together depth maps comparing the sea bed before and after the storms.

Researcher Bob Guza said the storm in early January 2023 took a “big bite” out of the beaches comparable to the beach erosion following the 2016 El Niño. He said data shows about 80% of sand lost in 2016 eventually came back during a two-to-three-year period, but that doesn’t mean the same thing will happen with these recent storms.