Morphological Change of a Developed Barrier Island due to Hurricane Forcing

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Virginia Tech


An estimated 10% of the world's population lives in low-lying coastal regions, which are vulnerable to storm surge and waves capable of causing loss of lives and billions of dollars in damage to coastal infrastructure. Among the most vulnerable coastlines are barrier islands, which often act as the first line of defense against storms for the mainland coast. In this dissertation, the physical damage to a developed barrier island (Bay Head, NJ, USA) caused by erosion during Hurricane Sandy (2012) is evaluated using the numerical model, XBeach. Three main objectives of this work are to evaluate the wave-force reducing capabilities of a buried seawall, the effects of bay surge on morphological change and the effectiveness of adaptation strategies to rising sea levels. According to simulation results, a buried seawall located beneath the nourished dunes in Bay Head reduced wave attack by a factor of 1.7 compared to locations without a seawall. The structure also prevented major erosion by blocking bay surge from inundating dunes from the backside, as observed in locations not fronted with a seawall. Altering the timing and magnitude of bay storm surge, the buried seawall continued to protect the island from catastrophic erosion under all conditions except for a substantial increase in bay surge. However, in the absence of a seawall, the morpho- logical response was highly dependent on bay surge levels with respect to ocean side surge. Compared to the damage sustained by the island during Hurricane Sandy, greater erosion was observed on the island for an increase in bay surge magnitude or when peak bay surge occurred after peak ocean surge. Considering sea level rise, which affects bay and ocean surge levels, adaptation strategies were evaluated on the protection afforded to the dune system and backbarrier. Of the sea level rise scenarios and adaptation strategies considered, raising the dune and beach protected the island under moderate rises in sea level, but exacerbated backbarrier erosion for the most extreme scenario. Although an extreme strategy, raising the island is the only option considered that protected the island from catastrophic erosion under low, moderate and extreme sea level rise.



Hurricane Sandy, Barrier Island, Breach, Overwash, Seawall