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Title: Impact of Hurricane Sandy on salt marshes of New Jersey
Hurricane Sandy, one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes on record, made landfall as an extratropical cyclone on the coast of New Jersey (29 October 2012) along a track almost perpendicular to the coast. Ten days later a northeaster caused heavy precipitation and elevated water levels along the coast. Two years of pre-storm monitoring and research in marshes of Barnegat Bay and the Delaware Estuary provided an opportunity to evaluate the impacts of Hurricane Sandy and the succeeding northeaster across the region. Peak water levels during Sandy ranged from 111 to 184 cm above the marsh surface in Barnegat Bay and 75 to 135 cm above the marsh surface in the Delaware Estuary. Despite widespread flooding and damage to coastal communities, the storm had modest and localized impacts on coastal marshes of New Jersey. Measurements made on the marsh platform illustrated localized responses to the storms including standing biomass removal, and changes in peak biomass the following summer. Marsh surface and elevation changes were variable within marshes and across the region. Localized elevation changes over the storm period were temporary and associated with subsurface processes. Over the long-term, there was no apparent impact of the 2012 storms, as elevations and regression slopes pre- and several months post-storm were not significant. Vegetation changes in the summer following the fall 2012 storms were also variable and localized within and among marshes. These results suggest that Hurricane Sandy and the succeeding northeaster did not have a widespread long-term impact on saline marshes in this region. Possible explanations are the dissipation of surge and wave energy from the barrier island in Barnegat Bay and the extreme water levels buffering the low-lying marsh surface from waves, winds, and currents, and carrying suspended loads past the short-statured marsh grasses to areas of taller vegetation and/or structure. These findings demonstrate that major storms that have substantial impacts on infrastructure and communities can have short-term localized effects on coastal marshes in the vicinity of the storm track.    more » « less
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Estuarine, coastal and shelf science
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National Science Foundation
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