Southeastern Section - 62nd Annual Meeting (20-21 March 2013)

Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 11:30 AM


JOHNSON, Jennifer M.1, MOORE, Laura J.2, ELLS, Kenneth3 and MURRAY, A. Brad3, (1)Geological Sciences, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, 100 Rock Haven Rd, Apt. M112, Carrboro, NC 27510, (2)Geological Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 104 South Road, Mitchell Hall, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, (3)Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Box 90230, Durham, NC 27708-0230,

While much attention has been given to the effects of sea level rise on coastal environments, changes in wave climate (in response to predicted increases in tropical storm intensity) may also significantly impact coastal areas in the future. Characterized by rapid alongshore shifts in shoreline orientation, cuspate coastlines are particularly sensitive to changes in wave climate and thus represent the best type of coastline for detecting initial responses to changing wave conditions. Previous work indicates that Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout, NC have become increasingly asymmetric in response to an increase in Atlantic summer wave heights identified by Komar and Allen (2007). Here, we compare historic and recent patterns of erosion and accretion for areas surrounding Cape Fear, NC to determine if a similar coastline response can be detected for locations heavily impacted by shoreline stabilization efforts.

We obtained shorelines from a suite of sources for this location and used the Digital Shoreline Analysis System (DSAS) to calculate shoreline change rates for historic (pre-1975) and recent (post-1975) time periods. The 1975 breakpoint was chosen to correspond with the timing of reported increases in hurricane-generated (summer) wave heights. Initial results suggest that the influence of shoreline stabilization efforts (primarily beach nourishment) has overwhelmed any wave-climate change response that may otherwise have been detectable surrounding Cape Fear, NC. Coastline Evolution Modeling (CEM) simulations that include similar patterns of nourishment produce shoreline change rate differences comparable to our observations and beach nourishment trends that match our observations best when an increasingly high-angle wave climate change is included. This work suggests that in areas of increasing wave energy, shoreline stabilization efforts may temporarily mask the effects of changing wave conditions on coastline response, but that changes in coastal response may be discernible via changes in shoreline stabilization effort.

  • JohnsonGSASE3202013.pdf (2.9 MB)