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Decade of Fire Island Research Available to Enhance Understanding of Future Coastal Changes
A new resource about Fire Island, New York, is now at the fingertips of coastal managers, planners, and the public, who will find it useful for understanding and predicting future changes on the island.
Fire Island is the longest of the barrier islands that lie along the south shore of Long Island, New York. Most of the island is part of Fire Island National Seashore and is a unique and important recreational and ecosystem resource. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has created Fire Island Coastal Change, a public website that details a decade’s worth of research focusing on changes to the beaches and dunes of the barrier island and understanding what influences their change.
Fire Island was severely affected by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. More than a year later, the USGS continues studying the changes caused by Sandy and producing information to aid the recovery process and help communities become more resilient against future storms.
“The website is intended to provide our Federal, State, and local partners and stakeholders with an access point to the large body of science we have produced, including the findings of the research that has been conducted at Fire Island,” said Cheryl Hapke, USGS research geologist and a principal investigator in USGS Fire Island research.
In addition to understanding the impacts of Hurricane Sandy, USGS scientists are integrating analyses of short- and long-term coastal change to better understand what factors affect coastal shorelines and how geologic controls, sea-level rise, and human activities contribute to shoreline vulnerability. Results of the research at Fire Island are applicable to other barrier-island systems.
“Barrier islands are dynamic systems that also provide protection from future storms to the built environment,” Hapke said. “A thorough understanding of the long-term and short-term evolution of barrier islands can lead to models that better predict future changes to the coastal system at Fire Island.”
As a result of Hurricane Sandy, beaches and dunes on Fire Island lost more than half of their pre-storm volume. Field surveys conducted immediately after Sandy documented low, flat beaches and extensive dune erosion (see related Sound Waves story, “USGS Scientists Predict, Measure Sandy's Impacts on the Coastal Landscape”). Assessment of overwash deposits—material carried to the interior of the island—indicates that most of the sand lost from the beaches and dunes during Hurricane Sandy was moved offshore or down the coast. Field surveys conducted on a monthly to bimonthly basis to document recovery from Sandy are ongoing. As of December 2013, the beach and berm have shown substantial recovery and are similar in elevation to the pre-storm beach.
This website is one of several planned products to connect people with USGS research related to Hurricane Sandy recovery, restoration, and rebuilding efforts, many of which are funded by Disaster Relief Appropriations Act 2013, also known as Sandy Supplemental (see “USGS Research to Support Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Gets Boost from Supplemental Funds”).
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