The U.S. Geological Survey is studying coastal hazards and coastal change to improve our understanding of coastal ecosystems and to develop better capabilities of predicting future coastal change. One approach to understanding the dynamics of coastal systems is to monitor changes in barrier-island sub-environments through time. This involves examining morphological and topographic change at time scales ranging from millennia to years and space scales ranging from tens of kilometers to meters. Of particular interest are the processes that produce those changes and determining whether or not those processes are likely to persist into the future. In these analyses of hazards and change, both natural and anthropogenic influences are considered. Quantifying past magnitudes and rates of coastal change and knowing the principal factors that govern those changes are critical to predicting what changes are likely to occur under different scenarios, such as short-term impacts of extreme storms or long-term impacts of sea-level rise. Assateague Island MD/VA was selected for detailed mapping of barrier island morphology and topography because the island offers a diversity of depositional sub-environments that are representative of other barrier islands along the middle Atlantic coast. The geomorphology and sub-environment map emphasizes the origins of the surficial features and it also serves as a basis for documenting which sub-environments are relatively stable, such as the barrier island core, and those that are highly dynamic, such as the beach and active overwash zones.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Geomorphology and depositional sub-environments of Assateague Island MD/VA