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Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center Home > Estuarine Physical Response to Storms > Study Sites > Barnegat Bay

Estuarine Physical Response to Storms


Box-cores provide a relatively undistributed look into the recent past to help better understand the processes contributing to sediment deposition and erosion.


Map of sampling strategy Barnegat Bay

Map showing the sampling strategy for Barnegat Bay.


Estuarine Event Layers

Changes in the hydrodynamics within an estuarine system during tropical and extratropical storms can transport different particle sizes resulting in event layers that accumulate rapidly compared to fair-weather conditions. This x-radiograph shows the contrast in sediments being preserved in a estuarine environment (light colors are sands, and dark colors are mud).

Barnegat Bay- Little Egg Harbor

Communities and infrastructure along the shores of Barnegat Bay were impacted by Sandy, with storm surge raising water levels 2 meters (6 feet) above normal high-tide levels, flooding estuarine coastlines and damaging coastal infrastructure. The estuary’s eastern barrier-island shoreline experienced erosion and breaching. These storm-driven changes in estuarine morphology may have altered water quality and modified estuarine processes such as water circulation and transport of sediment and nutrients.

In the first phase of this project, time-series data including water level, velocity, salinity, suspended-sediment concentration, light attenuation, chlorophyll-a, dissolved organic matter, and wave parameters will be collected at multiple sites within the Barnegat Bay estuary and in wetland channels. In addition, net sediment fluxes to two wetland complexes within the estuary will be determined. Finally, sediment cores in select areas of the bay will be collected and analyzed for grain size, organic matter content, bulk density, and water content.

The second phase of the project will include numerical modeling and data analysis of the Barnegat Bay estuary that will result in stratigraphic and depositional maps as well as updated hydrodynamic and sediment-transport models of the estuary. All of these tools will help to evaluate and forecast storm consequences, informing management efforts to assess ecological vulnerability and to design recovery strategies that promote long-term resilience in the estuarine environment.

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