Wetland and Aquatic Research Center


Hurricanes are large-scale disturbances of such force and size that their influence on landscape pattern and processes of coastal systems is evident, though still poorly understood. The regularity and severity of tropical storms are major factors controlling ecosystem structure and succession for coastal ecosystems. Hurricane landfall rates vary greatly for given coastal stretches of the southeastern United States. With centers throughout the Southeast U.S. and the Caribbean, our researchers have long been involved in wide-ranging hurricane research efforts, often conducting post-storm assessments to characterize the degree and extent of damage to coastal ecosystem structure. Our scientists don't just conduct the science necessary to understand the effects of hurricanes; our Louisiana researchers helped in rescue efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. To help with rapid response to natural disasters throughout the United States, WARC maintains a Science Response Vehicle (SRV). It is equipped with computers, software, and plotters to provide spatial analyses during and after natural disasters.
Filter Total Items: 13
Aerial image, Chincoteague NWR boundary
Date Published: August 2, 2016

Tropical storms and hurricanes wreak havoc with coastal forests where damage can vary with wind speed and approach from isolated treefalls to wide-area blowdowns of whole forests.

Figure 1. Example from previous investigations of wetland area change and shoreline erosion.
Date Published: July 20, 2016

Significant damage to coastal communities and surrounding wetlands of the north Atlantic states was caused by Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012, mostly tied to an associated storm surge of record extent and impact.

USGS representatives have been working closely with the Tribes since Hurricane Sandy.
Date Published: June 2, 2016

USGS is committed to meeting the science needs of four Native American Tribes impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New England and New York: the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head - Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, MA; the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod, MA; the Narragansett Indian Tribe near Charlestown, RI; and the Shinnecock Indian Nation on Long Island.

Real-time kinematic GPS surveys combined with complimentary ground leveling
Date Published: May 11, 2016

Storm surge waves and tides of hurricanes have the propensity to wash up marsh detritus of dead reeds and leaf debris along with plastic trash and lumber, commonly referred to as wrack, from overwashed beaches, marshes, forests, streets, and lawns.

Satellite view of Hurricane Sandy
Date Published: May 9, 2016

Support tasks performed by the WARC Advanced Applications Team for Hurricane Sandy-related projects include aerial imagery capture and processing, standards-compliant data formatting and transformation, metadata creation, and visualization of data in a spatial context.

Tree core collections of surviving trees were conducted in the landfall zone of Hurricane Sandy
Date Published: May 2, 2016

The science of dating growth rings and history of live and fossil wood samples is called dendrochronology. This technique is valuable for conducting climate reconstructions where meteorological data is lacking and for detecting past disturbance events such as tropical storms and hurricanes.

Intensive ground surveys and line transects were established across the marsh/forest ecotones
Date Published: May 2, 2016

As tropical storms and hurricanes move onshore and make landfall, wind and storm surge can be sufficiently high to damage built-infrastructure and natural systems, most notably coastal forests at the interface of land and sea.

Seaplane asset with camera mount and portal to accomplish post-hurricane reconnaissance missions
Date Published: May 2, 2016

High resolution imagery (aerial videography) was obtained of Hurricane Sandy to assess forest damage by documenting disturbed canopy and downed trees. 

Satellite image of Hurricane Sandy
Date Published: April 12, 2016

USGS scientists at the Wetland and Aquatic Research Center and other offices received funding for studies related to habitat change, storm surge and ecological modeling, migratory bird impacts, and other topics of interest. The Hurricane Sandy Spatial Data Mapping Application showcases the data and analytical products resulting from these studies.

Figure 1. Jamaica Bay and field sampling sites
Date Published: April 8, 2016

USGS scientists are working with collaborators to understand how Hurricane Sandy impacted wetlands in Jamaica Bay, New York. 

Evelyn Anemaet using an RTK to determine elevation of tidal swamp near the mouth of the Pocomoke River, MD
Date Published: April 7, 2016

When it comes to hurricanes, wind and storm surge effect vegetation differently. USGS anlyzes these differences following Hurricane Sandy to help inform management on storm mitigation and long-term planning. 

Figure 2. Historical major hurricanes ≥ Category 3. (Source: NOAA National Hurricane Center)
Date Published: April 7, 2016

In light of the increase in hurricane frequency and intensity, there is concern about the resilience and sustainability of coastal wetlands. Models can be used to investigatethe impacts of future hurricanes on wetland morphology along the northeast coasts in areas like Jamaica Bay, New York, an area impacted by Hurricane Sandy.