Coastal Storms Impacts & Barrier Island Dynamics

Coastal Storms Impacts & Barrier Island Dynamics

Barrier islands are low-lying, coast-parallel features shaped by ocean processes. The Outer Banks are a stunning example, and storms can provide a powerful reminder of their evolving nature. The character of barrier islands is related to their geologic history, ongoing coastal processes and human activities. Longshore transport, island overwash and inlet-opening are key processes affecting these systems. CP researchers are interested in understanding how barrier island form and change. This knowledge can inform habitat management, resource availability and hazard risks.

Example publications:

Mulligan, R. P., Walsh, J. P. , and H. Wadman. In press. Wind-generated storm surge and
surface waves in North Carolina Estuaries during Hurricane Irene, 2011, Journal of
Waterway, Port, Coastal and Ocean Engineering.

Conery, I. (co-advisors J.P. Walsh and D.R. Corbett). 2014. Decadal-scale evolution of a barrier
island: Insights from storm overwash and shoreline change on Ocracoke Island, NC. MS
Thesis, East Carolina University.

Riggs, S.R., Ames, D.V., Culver, S.J., Mallinson, D.J., Corbett, D.R., and Walsh, J.P., 2009, Eye of
a human hurricane: Pea Island, Oregon Inlet, and Bodie Island, northern Outer Banks, North
Carolina, in Kelley, J.T., Pilkey, O.H., and Cooper, J.A.G., eds., America’s Most Vulnerable
Coastal Communities: Geological Society of America Special Paper 460, p. 43–71, doi:
10.1130/2009.2460(04).Smith paper

Smith, C. G. S.J. Culver, S.R. Riggs, D. Ames, D.R. Corbett, and D. Mallinson, 2008. Geospatial Analysis of Barrier Island Width of Two Segments of the Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA: anthropogenic curtailment of natural self-sustaining processes. Journal of Coastal Research. 24, 70-83.

Featured Research

The evolution of Ocracoke Island over the last several decades

Ocracoke Island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and is home to a quaint and popular tourism community. As a southern part of the Outer Banks, the island is prone to tropical cyclone activity and has experienced many systems in recorded history. Hurricane Isabel was a Category 2 system when it made landfall close to Ocracoke in 2003. Analysis of storm impacts, shoreline changes and sedimentary deposits show how Isabel caused island overwash locally, and the island has continued to change shape (see Figure below).

LiDAR from 2001 (top, pre-Isabel) and mapped Isabel overwash and Isabel-estimated storm impact scale values (middle and bottom) based on Sallenger (2000). Positive scale values, in which storm runup (Rhigh) minus dune height (Dhigh ) are greater than zero (warm colors), are most likely to have experienced significant overwash based on the assumed conditions and dune character. Note how the mapped overwash (yellow highlighted area, middle image) agrees well with the storm impacts scale. Also, see the strong predictive accuracy in the zoomed image

LiDAR from 2001 (top, pre-Isabel) and mapped Isabel overwash and Isabel-estimated storm impact scale values (middle and bottom) based on Sallenger (2000). Positive scale values, in which storm runup (Rhigh) minus dune height (Dhigh ) are greater than zero (warm colors), are most likely to have experienced significant overwash based on the assumed conditions and dune character. Note how the mapped overwash (yellow highlighted area, middle image) agrees well with the storm impacts scale. Also, see the strong predictive accuracy in the zoomed image