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Science Center Objects

The primary objective of this project is to increase our understanding of the physical processes that cause coastal change, and ultimately improve our capability to predict the processes and their impacts. This will be approached by using geophysical surveys, oceanographic studies, and predictive models to investigate the interactions of shoreline, nearshore, and offshore sediment transport processes driving coastal change.

Coastal erosion is a pervasive societal problem for much of the world's shoreline. The ability to understand and predict coastal change is critical to mitigating its associated hazards. Two fundamental aspects of the USGS mission are to provide reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth and to minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters. The goal of the Coastal Change Processes Project is to investigate interactions between the shoreline, nearshore, and offshore sediment transport processes that drive coastal change and develop a capability to predict their impacts. To achieve this goal, the project will conduct geophysical surveys to investigate the goelogic framework of the region, deploy oceanographic instrumentation to measure regional physical processes, and develop physics-based models that hindcast these interactions over a variety of spaital and temporal domains. All of these approaches can be integrated into a physics based deterministic predictive system the can forecast changes.

Our current understanding of coastal sediment transport and geology suggests that examining coastal processes at sub-regional (ones to tens of km) to regional scales (100s of km) provides significant insight into coastal zone evolution. The Coastal Change Processes Project is focusing on several key sub-regional areas such as:

  • Long Bay, SC: regional coastal erosion with limited sand supply
  • Cape Hatteras, NC: local massive sediment convergence processes
  • Outer Banks, NC: uninterrupted extensive length of coastline to study variations in alongshore sediment transport
  • Fire Island, NY: regional coastal erosion with an extensive sand supply, including a field of offshore shore-face connected sand ridges

Each of these sub-regions has characteristic features and processes that when quantified will contribute to a broader understanding of regional coastal processes. In addition to advancing our understanding of coastal change issues related to storm impacts, sediment budgets, and sediment transport linkages between the beach, shoreface and inner shelf, project research will improve our basic knowledge of coastal ocean circulation and sediment transport processes.