Controls on coastal dune morphology, shoreline erosion and barrier island response to extreme storms
The response of a barrier island to an extreme storm depends in part on the surge elevation relative to the height and extent of the foredunes which can exhibit considerable variability alongshore. While it is recognized that alongshore variations in dune height and width direct barrier island response to storm surge, the underlying causes of the alongshore variation remain poorly understood. This study examines the alongshore variation in dune morphology along a 11 km stretch of Santa Rosa Island in northwest Florida and relates the variation in morphology to the response of the island during Hurricane Ivan and historic and storm-related rates of shoreline erosion. The morphology of the foredune and backbarrier dunes was characterized before and after Hurricane Ivan using Empirical Orthogonal Function (EOF) analysis and related through Canonical Correlation Analysis (CCA). The height and extent of the foredune, and the presence and relative location of the backbarrier dunes, varied alongshore at discrete length scales (of ~ 750, 1450 and 4550 m) that are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. Cospectral analysis suggests that the variation in dune morphology is correlated with transverse ridges on the inner-shelf, the backbarrier cuspate headlands, and the historical and storm-related trends in shoreline change. Sections of the coast with little to no dune development before Hurricane Ivan were observed in the narrowest portions of the island (between headlands), west of the transverse ridges. Overwash penetration tended to be larger in these areas and island breaching was common, leaving the surface close to the watertable and covered by a lag of shell and gravel. In contrast, large foredunes and the backbarrier dunes were observed at the widest sections of the island (the cuspate headlands) and at crest of the transverse ridges. Due to the large dunes and the presence of the backbarrier dunes, these areas experienced less overwash penetration and most of the sediment from the beachface and dunes was deposited within the upper-shoreface. It is argued that this sediment is returned to the beachface through nearshore bar migration following the storm and that the areas with larger foredunes and backbarrier dunes have smaller rates of historical shoreline erosion compared to areas with smaller dunes and greater transfer of sediment to the washover terrace. Since the recovery of the dunes will vary depending on the availability of sediment from the washover and beachface, it is further argued that the alongshore pattern of dune morphology and the response of the island to the next extreme storm is forced by the transverse ridges and island width through alongshore variations in storm surge and overwash gradients respectively. These findings may be particularly important for coastal managers involved in the repair and rebuilding of coastal infrastructure that was damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Ivan.