Understanding and Predicting Time-Dependent Dune Erosion
Abstract:The vulnerability of coastal ecosystems, habitats, and infrastructure is largely dictated by how protective sand dunes respond to extreme waves and water levels during storms. Predicting the type of dune response (e.g., scarping, overwashing, breaching) is often done with conditional storm-impact scale models (e.g. Sallenger 2000) however, these models do not describe the magnitude of expected changes or account for the continuum of dune responses throughout the duration of a storm event. Alternatively, process-based dune erosion models like XBeach explicitly compute interactions between waves, water levels, and sediment transport but are limited in regional applications due to computational requirements and inadequate knowledge of required boundary conditions.
Using historical observations of storm-induced coastal change, we are developing and testing a variety of new static, probabilistic, and time-dependent models for dune erosion. Model development is informed by the observed dune response from four events that impacted geomorphically diverse regions along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines. Results from the static models indicate that alongshore differences in the magnitude of dune elevation change can be related to the depth of water over of the dune crest (e.g. freeboard) but that increasing freeboard does not always correspond to an increased lowering of the dune crest. Applying the concept of dune freeboard in a time-dependent approach that incorporates rising water levels that cause a dune to sequentially experience collision, overwash and then inundation shows that reasonable estimates of dune erosion are obtained. The accuracy of each of the models is now being evaluated along the large and diverse regions of coast that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 where dune response was highly variable.