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St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center > Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms

Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms

graph showing dune erosion in Rodanthe, North Carolina resulting from Hurricane Isabel Figure 1. Dune erosion in Rodanthe, NC resulting from Hurricane Isabel's 2003 landfall. The elevation of the dune decreased by almost a meter. [larger version]
dune erosion in Nags Head Figure 2. High storm surge and wave runup during Hurricane Isabel (2003) caused widespread dune erosion in Nags Head, NC. [larger version]

Storm-Induced Coastal Change

Dune Erosion

Dune erosion occurs when storm surge elevates waves higher on the beach, allowing them to attack and erode the coastal dune. As sand is removed from the dune, the front face becomes very steep, or scarped. The overall volume and elevation of the dune is reduced due to the erosion process (Figure 1). Dune erosion makes properties behind the dune more vulnerable to future storms and the potential for overwash (Figure 2). The eroded sediment is carried offshore and stored in large sandbars. The sand dune can recover over a period of years, gaining in elevation and volume through deposits of wind-blown sand. Because dunes rebuild over a long period, many coastal counties choose to build temporary dunes following a large storm.

return to Coastal Change Overview | continue to Overwash


St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center > Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms

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