Examining the Dynamics of the Connecticut Shoreline and their Implications for Coastal Zoning Management

Authors: Brooke Mercaldi*,
Topics: Coastal and Marine
Keywords: Coastal dynamics, resilience, climate change, coastal zoning
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Marshall West, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There is a common conception that the presence of Long Island protects the Connecticut coast from intense storms, but the impacts of Irene and Sandy have suggested that this is untrue. Observations made on the effects of these storms revealed that beach width plays a critical role in the protection of coastal structures from storm wave energy. The broader a beach is, the more protection it offers. Open-ocean beaches typically experience seasonal profiles. Winter storms with short periods erode the sediments and deposit them in offshore sandbars, and summer fair-weather waves with longer periods transport these sediments back onto the beaches. This natural replenishment allows beaches to recover after intense storms and continue to serve as buffers for coastal structures. However, the presence of Long Island prevents these accretionary fair-weather waves from reaching the Connecticut coast. As a result, sediments that are eroded from increasingly frequent and intense storms are abandoned in offshore sandbars and the beaches are becoming gradually thinner, leaving the coastal structures exceptionally vulnerable to storm wave damage. Connecticut often relies on beach restoration projects to rebuild these natural buffers, but such projects are substantially expensive and ultimately temporary. This research aims to monitor and document the behavior of the shoreline through the measurement of seasonal cross-sectional profiles and use the data to make coastal zoning recommendations as to how the beaches can be maintained in a more economically and environmentally sustainable way.

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