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Radar and optical mapping of surge persistence and marsh dieback along the New Jersey Mid-Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy

May 10, 2018

This study combined a radar-based time series of Hurricane Sandy surge and estimated persistence with optical sensor-based marsh condition change to assess potential causal linkages of surge persistence and marsh condition change along the New Jersey Atlantic Ocean coast. Results based on processed TerraSAR-X and COSMO-SkyMed synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images indicated that surge flooding persisted for 12 h past landfall in marshes from Great Bay to Great Egg Harbor Bay and up to 59 h after landfall in many back-barrier lagoon marshes. Marsh condition change (i.e. loss of green marsh vegetation) was assessed from optical satellite images (Satellite Pour l'Observation de la Terre and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) collected before and after Hurricane Sandy. High change in condition often showed spatial correspondence, with high surge persistence in marsh surrounding the lagoon portion of Great Bay, while in contrast, low change and high persistence spatial correspondence dominated the interior marshes of the Great Bay and Great Egg Harbor Bay estuaries. Salinity measurements suggest that these areas were influenced by freshwater discharges after landfall possibly mitigating damage. Back-barrier marshes outside these regions exhibited mixed correspondences. In some cases, topographic features supporting longer surge persistence suggested that non-correspondence between radar and optical data-based results may be due to differential resilience; however, in many cases, reference information was lacking to determine a reason for non-correspondence.