Characterizing storm response and recovery using the beach change envelope: Fire Island, New York

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Abstract

Hurricane Sandy at Fire Island, New York presented unique challenges in the quantification of storm impacts using traditional metrics of coastal change, wherein measured changes (shoreline, dune crest, and volume change) did not fully reflect the substantial changes in sediment redistribution following the storm. We used a time series of beach profile data at Fire Island, New York to define a new contour-based morphologic change metric, the Beach Change Envelope (BCE). The BCE quantifies changes to the upper portion of the beach likely to sustain measurable impacts from storm waves and capture a variety of storm and post-storm beach states. We evaluated the ability of the BCE to characterize cycles of beach change by relating it to a conceptual beach recovery regime, and demonstrated that BCE width and BCE height from the profile time series correlate well with established stages of recovery. We also investigated additional applications of this metric to capture impacts from storms and human modification by applying it to several post-storm historical datasets in which impacts varied considerably; Nor'Ida (2009), Hurricane Irene (2011), Hurricane Sandy (2012), and a 2009 community replenishment. In each case, the BCE captured distinctive upper beach morphologic change characteristic of these different beach building and erosional events. Analysis of the beach state at multiple profile locations showed spatial trends in recovery consistent with recent morphologic island evolution, which other studies have linked with sediment availability and the geologic framework. Ultimately we demonstrate a new way of more effectively characterizing beach response and recovery cycles to evaluate change along sandy coasts.

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Brenner, O. T., Lentz, E. E., Hapke, C. J., Henderson, R. E., Wilson, K. E., & Nelson, T. R. (2018). Characterizing storm response and recovery using the beach change envelope: Fire Island, New York. Geomorphology, 300, 189–202. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2017.08.004

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