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A survey of storm-induced seaward-transport features observed during the 2019 and 2020 hurricane seasons

June 1, 2021

Hurricanes are known to play a critical role in reshaping coastlines, but often only impacts on the open ocean coast are considered, ignoring seaward-directed forces and responses. The identification of subaerial evidence for storm-induced seaward transport is a critical step towards understanding its impact on coastal resiliency. The visual features, found in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Geodetic Survey Emergency Response Imagery (ERI) collected after recent hurricanes on the U.S. East Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, include scours and channelized erosion, but also deposition on the shoreface or in the nearshore as deltas and fans of various sizes. We catalog all available ERI and describe recently formed features found on the North Core Banks, North Carolina, after Hurricane Dorian (2019); the Carolina coasts after Hurricane Isaias (2020); the Isles Dernieres, Louisiana, after Hurricane Zeta (2020); and the southwest coast of Louisiana, after Hurricanes Laura and Delta (2020). Hundreds of features were identified over nearly 200 km of coastline with the density of features exceeding 20 per km in some areas. Individual features range in size from 5 m to 500 m in the alongshore, with similar dimensions in the cross-shore direction, including the formation or reactivation of outlets. The extensive occurrence of these storm-induced return-flow and seawardflow morphologic features demonstrates that their role in coastal evolution and resilience may be more prominent than previously thought. Based on these observations we propose clarifying terms for return- and seaward-flow features to distinguish them from more frequently documented landward-flow features and advocate for their inclusion in coastal change hazards classification schemes and coastal evolution morphodynamic models.