As the path of Hurricane Joaquin continues to move farther offshore, making landfall in the U.S. less likely, U.S. Geological Survey coastal change experts say there’s still a high probability of dune erosion along parts of the Atlantic coast, from the North Carolina Outer Banks to Cape Cod.
“The storm’s winds are generating ocean swells capable of causing coastal erosion along the Outer banks, Virginia, and Maryland, as well as areas of the New England, most likely to see the effects,” said Nathaniel Plant, a USGS research oceanographer. “Isolated locations along the New Jersey and New York coast, areas that were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, could also experience dune erosion.”
As the hurricane’s track has shifted farther offshore, overwash due to wave runup overtopping the dunes is not currently expected to occur, except at isolated locations where dunes are relatively low.
The USGS coastal-change forecasts, which integrate information produced by both the USGS and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its National Hurricane Center, will continue to be updated daily and results will be posted to the Coastal Change Hazards Portal. The portal provides a wealth of information for coastal residents, emergency managers and community leaders. To access current forecasts, click on the Portal’s ‘Active Storm’ tab located on the upper right corner of the portal’s web page.
“We are collaborating with NOAA to explain what weather and storm conditions mean for coastal communities. Combining weather data with coastal process information enables us to make detailed predictions of the runup of waves along the coast” said Plant. “We are also developing a time series forecast of predicted high water levels, which we can use to forecast the timing and likelihood that storm waves will erode beaches, damage dunes, overtop the dunes and inundate the land with seawater or open breaches in barrier islands. The expected storm impacts from Joaquin are particularly interesting because high water levels are primarily due to Joaquin’s waves rather than storm surge.”
The researchers indicate that Joaquin is a perfect storm to test the accuracy of the coastal erosion forecasts. Within the USGS, water scientists who are collecting wave and storm surge data from sensors developed using supplemental funding following Hurricane Sandy, along with scientists from the coastal-change hazards team, will be working together to evaluate and improve the accuracy of future coastal-change forecasts.
The forecasts and updated information collected from Joaquin will better position the USGS to support emergency managers, coastal planners and community leaders, who can combine the information found on the portal with other data to identify where hazards pose the greatest risks to their communities, thereby allowing them to develop specific plans of action before a storm’s impacts threaten homes, schools, businesses and critical habitats.