Science Center Objects

The Barrier Island Evolution Project addresses a research gap between the short time scale of individual storms (hours to days) and the longer time scales associated with the historic and geologic evolution of the coastal system (decades to millennia).

slide showing timescales addressed by the Barrier Island Evolution Project

Overview of processes and timescales addressed by the Barrier Island Evolution Project. (Public domain.)

The Barrier Island Evolution Project addresses a research gap between the short time scale of individual storms (hours to days) and the longer time scales associated with the historic and geologic evolution of the coastal system (decades to millennia). The project integrates two of the Coastal and Marine Geology Program's strengths in studying coastal-change hazards—assessment of storm impacts and characterization of coastal geologic framework. Combining these strengths with modeling of morphology will make possible predictions of barrier-island behavior over time scales useful to resource managers (1–5 years).

Geomorphic Analysis and Data Collection

Medium-term coastal evolution involves the interaction of submerged and subaerial geomorphology, oceanography, sediment supply and other geologic constraints, and biological interactions associated with marshes and dune grasses. The resulting sediment budgets determine the balance of topographic and bathymetric elevations and dictate how barrier island trajectories will proceed in the future.

Numerical Modeling and Oceanography

Numerical models compliment the collection of geophysical data by hindcasting and forecasting sediment transport pathways, natural island trajectories, and berm/island interactions over larger and higher resolution domains and time periods.

Geologic Analysis

Quantifying changes in morphology and sediment distribution over short time scales will demonstrate how geologic variability influences medium-term barrier island response and near-term barrier island trajectories and help to refine sedimentological boundary conditions for morphologic evolution models.

Applied Research

Assessments will include depiction of trends (the past points to the future), updated observations (topography/bathymetry), and predicted sensitivity of barrier island evolution to possible climatologies and restoration plans.