Tropical and extratropical storms produce significant erosion on the barrier islands of Louisiana. Over the past 100 years, such storms have produced at least 2 km of northward beach-face retreat and the loss of 63% of the surface area of the Isles Dernieres, a low-lying barrier-island arc along the central Louisiana coast. Elevations on the islands within the arc are typically less than 2 m above mean sea level. The islands typically have a washover-flat topography with occasional, poorly developed, dune-terrace topography consisting of low-lying and broken dunes. The central part of the arc consists of salt-marsh deposits overlain by washover sands along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. Sand thicknesses range from zero behind the beach, to less than 2 m under the berm crest, and back to zero in the first nearshore trough. The sand veneer is sufficiently thin that storms can strip all the sand from the beach face, exposing the underlying marsh deposits. The geomorphic changes produced by cold fronts, a type of extratropical storm that commonly affect the Isles Dernieres between late fall and early spring are described. Between August 1986 and September 1987, repeated surveys along eleven shore-normal transects that covered 400 m of shoreline revealed the timing and extent of cold-front-produced beach change along a typical section of the central Isles Dernieres. During the study period, the beach face retreated approximately 20 m during the cold-front season but did not rebuild during the subsequent summer. Because the volume of sand deposited on the backshore (5600 m3) was less than the volume of material lost from the beach face (19,200 m3), approximately 13,600 m3 of material disappeared. Assuming that underlying marsh deposits decrease in volume in direct proportion to the amount of beach-face retreat, an estimate of the mud loss during the study period is 14,000 m3. Thus, the decrease in volume along the profiles can be accounted for without removing any sand from the area, suggesting that a major effect of cold fronts is first to strip the sand from the beach face and then to erode the underlying marsh deposits. After being eroded, the mud is lost from the islands because currents transport it away from the islands. ?? 1990.
Additional publication details
Cold-front driven storm erosion and overwash in the central part of the Isles Dernieres, a Louisiana barrier-island arc