Hotspot dune erosion on an intermediate beach

Coastal Engineering
By: , and 



A large, low pressure Nor’easter storm and Hurricane Joaquin contributed to multiple weeks of sustained, elevated wave and water level conditions along the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States in Fall 2015. Sea level anomalies in excess of 1 m and offshore wave heights of up to 4 m were recorded during these storms, as observed at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Field Research Facility in Duck, NC, USA. In response to these energetic oceanographic conditions, there were highly variable morphologic changes to the dune over short spatial scales (<km) which included a range of responses from vertical dune scarping to no measureable response. The portion of the study area with the largest dune erosion occurred at a location fronted by an abnormally deep nearshore bathymetric feature, which altered surf-zone waves and hydrodynamics. The pre-storm beach and dune topography also varied throughout the study area, additionally influencing the frequency of dune collision and contributing to the spatially variable erosion patterns. This work uses field datasets and numerical modeling tools to investigate the causation of hotspot dune erosion at the Field Research Facility. Three different numerical models were tested against the available data in order to assess model skill at resolving complex spatial dune erosion patterns. The three models successfully reproduce the general spatial trends in alongshore variable responses, although not necessarily the details of profile response or net erosion magnitude. Analysis of the model outputs, in conjunction with the available field data, suggests that the observed hotspot dune erosion is related to a complex combination of both topographic and bathymetric controls on the processes driving dune erosion. Therefore, the most simplistic model tested, which only accounts for alongshore variations in topographic profile details, can only predict hotspot dune erosion in locations where steep beach and/or dune topography is the primary control on collisional dune impacts. The higher fidelity models, which account for feedback effects from subaqueous morphology, are similarly able to predict the locations of maximum hotspot erosion, but are sensitive to beach over-steepening and/or errors in wave runup calculations that can lead to over-prediction of simulated dune erosion. This work highlights that numerous existing tools are capable of identifying the foredune regions at most risk from hotspot erosion, as well as the need for continued research to improve representation of all relevant intra-storm morphodynamic processes.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Hotspot dune erosion on an intermediate beach
Series title Coastal Engineering
DOI 10.1016/j.coastaleng.2021.103998
Volume 170
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 103998, 21 p.
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