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Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center > Coastal Model Applications and Field Measurements > Research Activities > Landscape change and water level response

Coastal Model Applications and Field Measurements

Landscape change and water level response

The importance of landscape change on water level response in back-barrier bays

On 28-30 October 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused severe flooding along portions of the northeast coast of the United States and cut new inlets across barrier islands in New Jersey and New York. About 30 percent of the 20 highest daily maximum water levels observed between 2007 and 2013 in Barnegat and Great South Bay occurred in the five months following Hurricane Sandy, raising the concern that Sandy may have altered the coastal system and left the mainland more vulnerable to flooding. Comparisons between water levels before and after Hurricane Sandy at bay stations and an offshore station show no significant differences in the transfer of sea level fluctuations from offshore to either bay following Sandy (Aretxabaleta and others, 2014). The post-Hurricane Sandy bay high water levels reflected offshore sea levels caused by winter storms, not by barrier-island breaching or geomorphic changes within the bays.

This analysis provides a strategy to assess the effects of landscape change (inlets, erosion, etc.) on the transfer of offshore water level into back barrier bays.

Map showing location of water level stations in Middle Atlantic Bight

Map of Middle Atlantic Bight showing locations of water level stations at Mantoloking, New Jersey (MAN) and Lindenhurst, New York (LIN) in blue (in estuaries behind barrier islands); and at Sandy Hook, New Jersey (SH) in red (used as proxy for offshore water level). The Battery in New York (NYB) is also shown in red, but is not included in the analysis shown here. Inset maps show Barnegat Bay (left) and Great South Bay (right) and open squares show the location of breaches at Mantoloking, New Jersey and Old Inlet, New York that occurred during Hurricane Sandy.

 Coherence and transfer between offshore and back-barrier bay water levels.

Water level coherence (A, B) and transfer function (C, D) between SH and MAN and between SH and LIN for the October-September period for 2007-2012 (pre-Hurricane Sandy) and December-September 2012-2013 (post-Sandy). The shaded areas denote uncertainty envelopes for coherence and transfer function, for short-term (blue) and long-term(grey) records. SH data is the input spectrum and MAN and LIN are output spectra.


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