Hurricane Matthew - Forecast and Documentation of Coastal Change

Science Center Objects

Hurricane Matthew coastal change forecast and pre- and post-storm photos documenting coastal change.

Hurricane Matthew impacted a large portion of the U.S. Southeast coast, from Florida to North Carolina, from October 6-9, 2016. Storm surge reached 0.5 to 2.5 meters above predicted tides. Offshore wave heights in excess of 9 meters were observed near Cape Canaveral, Florida. These large waves contributed an additional 2 to 5 meters of wave runup at the shoreline. The combined effects of surge and storm-induced wave runup created elevated total water levels at the shoreline, causing extensive erosion of the beach and dunes.

Response activities included:

  • Forecast of potential coastal change (see next section)
  • Pre- and post-storm photos documenting coastal change (see galleries below)
  • Qualitative validation of coastal change forecast (USGS Data Release)
  • Oblique aerial photography of the coast from Port St. Lucie, Florida, to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, collected October 13-15, 2016 (USGS Data Release)
  • Post-storm lidar survey of open coast shoreline from Florida to Virginia
  • Quantitative observations of coastal change (coming soon)

Forecast of Potential Coastal Change

The coastal change forecast model predicts the probability of where and how sand dunes along the coast will be impacted by water levels during a storm. This includes the combined effect of surge and wave runup. The color band closest to the shoreline is the probability of dune erosion, the middle color band is the probability that sand dunes will be overtopped by waves during the storm, and the outer color band is the probability that the sand dunes will be completely inundated/flooded. The model forecast is available on the Coastal Change Hazards Portal and more information about the model can be found here:

tential coastal change impacts for Hurricane Matthew - Oct. 7, 2016

The Coastal Change Hazards Portal includes the forecacast of potential coastal change impacts for a direct landfall of Hurricane Matthew based on NHC Advisory 037, 0800 AM EDT OCT 07 2016. (Public domain.)

Pre-and Post-Storm Photo Comparisons

The photos pairs below show aerial photos taken before and similar imagery taken a few days after Hurricane Matthew's landfall ( The photos show how the coast was impacted by the storm and are used to validate the forecast model.



South Carolina 

North Carolina 

Research is part of the National Assessment of Storm-Induced Coastal Change Hazards project.