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Fire Island Coastal Change

Overview

View from the Fire Island Lighthouse, looking southeast, at a relatively undeveloped section of Fire Island National Seashore.
View from the Fire Island Lighthouse, looking southeast, at a relatively undeveloped section of Fire Island National Seashore. The well-developed dunes visible in the photograph were razed by Hurricane Sandy. [larger version]

The U.S. Geological Survey is engaged in a variety of research activities along the south shore of Long Island. These include: understanding how and why the beaches and dunes along the Fire Island barrier system change over decades and in response to storms, sea-level rise, and human activities; mapping the seabed of the adjacent offshore areas and understanding the underlying geology; and measuring waves, winds and currents to understand the process by which sediment is exchanged between marine and terrestrial coastal systems. Together, these activities provide a comprehensive study of the drivers and influences controlling coastal change.

Research has been underway to quantify morphologic change to the beaches and dunes through investigations of long-term shoreline dynamics (decades to century) and near-term (years to decades) shoreline and topographic changes (elevation, slope, volume). Data are collected in the field and derived from remote sensing data sources such as aerial photographs and lidar. Recent efforts include a substantial effort to measure and quantify the morphological response to and recovery following Hurricane Sandy.

Updated geologic maps of the pre-Hurricane Sandy coastal ocean seabed provide a modern interpretation of the marine geologic framework of the coastal ocean nearshore and offshore of Fire Island. Maps include bathymetry, shallow stratigraphy, morphology, and sediment distribution. Oceanographic field studies identify the mechanisms of sand movement on the coastal ocean seabed and the connections to the nearshore coastal zone. Data are collected via the deployment of instruments on the seabed that measure variations of waves alongshore and cross-shore movement of sediment.

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Page Last Modified: December 05, 2016 @ 11:24 AM (JSG)