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Spotlight on Sandy

Linking Coastal Processes and Vulnerability—Assateague Island Regional Study

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Hurricane Sandy significantly impacted the coast of the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia) Peninsula, which contains several National Wildlife Refuges, Assateague Island National Seashore, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, and major private landholdings. (See before-and-after photos here.) Regional controls on Delmarva’s coastal evolution are poorly known and limit understanding of the area’s vulnerability to future storms and sea-level rise.

Map of Delmarva Peninsula
Above: Map of Delmarva Peninsula, showing study area on the inner continental shelf (shaded). Base map courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC). [larger version]

In order to improve vulnerability assessments, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is undertaking an extensive mapping effort offshore of the Delmarva Peninsula in 2014 and 2015. Researchers will collect geophysical data—bathymetry, backscatter, and subbottom profiles—that provide information about seafloor depth and shape; seafloor sediment type, such as rock, sand, and mud; and the nature and geometry of sediment and rock beneath the seafloor. Sediment samples and bottom photographs will be collected for use in confirming interpretations of the geophysical data. The researchers will use their findings to improve understanding of where the region’s beach and barrier-island sediment comes from and where it is lost from the coastal system. They will also identify links between the regional geologic framework (the composition and characteristics of sediment and rock underlying the region) and rates and patterns of coastal change.

Aerial view of Assateague Island, looking north
Above: Aerial view of Assateague Island, looking north. Ocean City, Maryland, is visible in the far distance at top. Sinepuxent Bay lies between the island’s western shore and the Delmarva Peninsula to the upper left. Photograph taken in 1998 by Susanne Bledsoe, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (more information about this photo at Wikipedia). [larger version]

Already multiple partners and stakeholders have met to coordinate mapping and data-sharing efforts along the Delmarva coast in order to maximize beneficial outcomes and minimize redundancies. A synergistic plan has been developed to conduct nearshore and inner-shelf geophysical studies and habitat mapping for Assateague Island with collaborators from the University of Delaware and the National Park Service. The interagency members will be sharing data and interpretations to help each other develop regional knowledge of geologic setting and processes. The Delaware Geological Survey will share its extensive repository of cores, age dates, and other stratigraphic information to better inform interpretations of geophysical data. A large discussion is also underway among the USGS, The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Assateague Island National Seashore, and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility about connecting stakeholder interests to the development of online data portals and decision-support tools that can inform both short- and long-term management plans.

Stay tuned!

Related Sound Waves Stories
USGS Research Contributes to Assateague Island Restoration—Mitigating 70 Years of Coastal Erosion Due to Ocean City Inlet Jetties
November 2002

Related Websites
Before-and-after photo comparisons
National Geophysical Data Center
Assateague Island aerial view

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print this issue print this issue

in this issue:

cover story:
Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability of Pacific Atolls

Spotlight on Sandy
Fire Island Oceanographic Study Update

Linking Coastal Processes and Vulnerability in Assateague Island Region

Recent Hires Assist USGS Barrier Island and Estuarine Studies

EDEN and EVE—Getting the Water Right in Paradise

"Marathon" Bird May Plan Flights Based on Weather Across the Pacific

Warmer Conditions Create New Goose Habitat in Arctic Alaska

25 Years After the Exxon Valdez, Sea Otter Populations at Pre-Spill Levels

USGS Intern Teaches Kids about Ocean Acidification

USGS Scientists Support the National Ocean Science Bowl’s Spoonbill Bowl

Communications Awards Recognize Ocean Chemistry Topics

Three USGS Volunteers in Florida Working on Ocean Acidification

USGS Employee in Florida Recognized for Service on Science Museum Board

Publications New Kid on the Web: USGS CMGP Redesigned Website Goes Live

March / April Publications

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