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Nearshore sediment thickness, Fire Island, New York

April 3, 2017

Investigations of coastal change at Fire Island, New York (N.Y.), sought to characterize sediment budgets and determine geologic framework controls on coastal processes. Nearshore sediment thickness is critical for assessing coastal system sediment availability, but it is largely unquantified due to the difficulty of conducting geological or geophysical surveys across the nearshore. This study used an amphibious vessel to acquire chirp subbottom profiles. These profiles were used to characterize nearshore geology and provide an assessment of nearshore sediment volume. Two resulting sediment-thickness maps are provided: total Holocene sediment thickness and the thickness of the active shoreface. The Holocene sediment section represents deposition above the maximum flooding surface that is related to the most recent marine transgression. The active shoreface section is the uppermost Holocene sediment, which is interpreted to represent the portion of the shoreface thought to contribute to present and future coastal behavior. The sediment distribution patterns correspond to previously defined zones of erosion, accretion, and stability along the island, demonstrating the importance of sediment availability in the coastal response to storms and seasonal variability. The eastern zone has a thin nearshore sediment thickness, except for an ebb-tidal deposit at the wilderness breach caused by Hurricane Sandy. Thicker sediment is found along a central zone that includes shoreface-attached sand ridges, which is consistent with a stable or accretional coastline in this area. The thickest overall Holocene section is found in the western zone of the study, where a thicker lower section of Holocene sediment appears related to the westward migration of Fire Island Inlet over several hundred years.