Bluff evolution along coastal drumlins: Boston Harbor Islands, Massachusetts

Journal of Coastal Research
By: , and 



A series of partially drowned drumlins forms the backbone of the inner islands within Boston Harbor. The shoreline of these rounded glacial deposits is composed of actively retreating bluffs formed by continual wave attack. Comparisons of bluffs reveal variability in their height and lateral extent, as well as in the dominant mechanism causing their retreat. Two processes are responsible for bluff erosion and yield distinct bluff morphologies: (1) wave attack undercuts the bluff and causes episodic slumping, yielding planar bluff slopes, and (2) subaerial processes such as rainfall create irregular slopes characterized by rills and gullies. We propose a model of drumlin bluff evolution that is based on processes of erosion and physical characteristics such as bluff height, slope morphology, and the orientation of the bluff with respect to the long axis of the drumlin and its topographic crest. The four phases of drumlin bluff evolution consist of (1) initial formation of bluff, with retreat dominated by wave notching and slumping processes; (2) rill and gully development as bluff heights exceed 10 m and slumped sediment at bluff base inhibits wave attack; (3) return of wave notching and slumping as bluff heights decrease; and (4) final development of boulder retreat lag as last remnants of drumlin are eroded by wave action. These phases capture the important physical processes of drumlin evolution in Boston Harbor and could apply to other eroding coastal drumlin deposits.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Bluff evolution along coastal drumlins: Boston Harbor Islands, Massachusetts
Series title Journal of Coastal Research
DOI 10.2112/06A-0005.1
Volume 22
Issue 5
Year Published 2006
Language English
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 11 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Journal of Coastal Research
First page 1230
Last page 1240
Country United States
State Massachusetts
Other Geospatial Boston Harbor Islands
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