Estuarine Processes Coastal Hazards

Science Center Objects

Extreme tides and coastal storms transfer high water levels to estuaries through natural and managed entrances. The size of the transfer depends on the duration of the event and the geomorphology of the estuary. We use observational data and modeling scenarios to understand and spatially map this transfer at our study sites.

Extreme water levels from spring tides and coastal storms propagate from ocean waters, through natural and managed inlets, to estuarine embayments. This propagation is modified by friction in the inlets and the duration of the high water event. Communities and infrastructure on the estuarine shoreline may experience higher water levels during these events. Changes in inlet configuration, duration of the storm, and bathymetry of the estuary modify the percentage of offshore water level transferred to the estuary. The transfer can be quantified with quality-controlled water level data and numerical models, and used to estimate the vulnerability of mainland infrastructure to coastal flooding. We have begun with in-depth analyses of changes to this transfer due to Hurricane Sandy, and are now extending these analyses by adding observational sites and applying numerical models for greater spatial coverage.