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Assessing the impact of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy on the morphology and modern sediment thickness on the inner continental shelf offshore of Fire Island, New York

January 15, 2016

This report documents the changes in seabed morphology and modern sediment thickness detected on the inner continental shelf offshore of Fire Island, New York, before and after Hurricanes Irene and Sandy made landfall. Comparison of acoustic backscatter imagery, seismic-reflection profiles, and bathymetry collected in 2011 and in 2014 show that sedimentary structures and depositional patterns moved alongshore to the southwest in water depths up to 30 meters during the 3-year period. The measured lateral offset distances range between about 1 and 450 meters with a mean of 20 meters. The mean distances computed indicate that change tended to decrease with increasing water depth. Comparison of isopach maps of modern sediment thickness show that a series of shoreface-attached sand ridges, which are the dominant sedimentary structures offshore of Fire Island, migrated toward the southwest because of erosion of the ridge crests and northeast-facing flanks as well as deposition on the southwest-facing flanks and in troughs between individual ridges. Statistics computed suggest that the modern sediment volume across the about 81 square kilometers of common sea floor mapped in both surveys decreased by 2.8 million cubic meters, which is a mean change of –0.03 meters, which is smaller than the resolution limit of the mapping systems used.