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  1. Tropical cyclones and other extreme coastal storms cause widespread interruption and damage to meteorological and hydrological measurement stations exactly when researchers need them most. There is a longstanding need to collect collocated and synchronized measurements in areas where storms severely damage civil/coastal infrastructure. To fill this observational gap, researchers led by author Masters developed a state-of-the-art monitoring station called a “Sentinel.” Sentinels are intended for temporary installation on the beach between the mean tidal datum and the sand dunes and are engineered to operate in and measure extreme wind, storm surge, wave, and hazardous water quality conditions. They are envisioned as a shared-use resource—a hardened IoT (Internet of Things) platform set up in the right place at the right time to study wind and wave loads, coastal erosion and morphology changes, water quality, and other processes during extreme coastal storms. 
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  2. Abstract

    Infragravity waves are key components of the hydro‐sedimentary processes in coastal areas, especially during extreme storms. Accurate modeling of coastal erosion and breaching requires consideration of the effects of infragravity waves. Here, we present InWave, a new infragravity wave driver of the Coupled Ocean‐Atmopshere‐Waves‐Sediment Transport (COAWST) modeling system. InWave computes the spatial and temporal variation of wave energy at the wave group scale and the associated incoming bound infragravity wave. Wave group‐varying forces drive free infragravity wave growth and propagation within the hydrodynamic model of the coupled modeling system, which is the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) in this work. Since ROMS is a three‐dimensional model, this coupling allows for the combined formation of undertow currents and infragravity waves. We verified the coupled InWave‐ROMS with one idealized test case, one laboratory experiment, and one field experiment. The coupled modeling system correctly reproduced the propagation of gravity wave energy with acceptable numerical dissipation. It also captured the transfer of energy from the gravity band to the infragravity band, and within the different infragravity bands in the surf zone, the measured three‐dimensional flow structure, and dune morphological evolution satisfactorily. The idealized case demonstrated that the infragravity wave variance depends on the directional resolution and horizontal grid resolution, which are known challenges with the approach taken here. The addition of InWave to COAWST enables novel investigation of nearshore hydro‐sedimentary dynamics driven by infragravity waves using the strengths of the other modeling components, namely the three‐dimensional nature of ROMS and the sediment transport routines.

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  3. Abstract

    Physical processes driving barrier island change during storms are important to understand to mitigate coastal hazards and to evaluate conceptual models for barrier evolution. Spatial variations in barrier island topography, landcover characteristics, and nearshore and back‐barrier hydrodynamics can yield complex morphological change that requires models of increasing resolution and physical complexity to predict. Using the Coupled Ocean‐Atmosphere‐Wave‐Sediment Transport (COAWST) modeling system, we investigated two barrier island breaches that occurred on Fire Island, NY during Hurricane Sandy (2012) and at Matanzas, FL during Hurricane Matthew (2016). The model employed a recently implemented infragravity (IG) wave driver to represent the important effects of IG waves on nearshore water levels and sediment transport. The model simulated breaching and other changes with good skill at both locations, resolving differences in the processes and evolution. The breach simulated at Fire Island was 250 m west of the observed breach, whereas the breach simulated at Matanzas was within 100 m of the observed breach. Implementation of the vegetation module of COAWST to allow three‐dimensional drag over dune vegetation at Fire Island improved model skill by decreasing flows across the back‐barrier, as opposed to varying bottom roughness that did not positively alter model response. Analysis of breach processes at Matanzas indicated that both far‐field and local hydrodynamics influenced breach creation and evolution, including remotely generated waves and surge, but also surge propagation through back‐barrier waterways. This work underscores the importance of resolving the complexity of nearshore and back‐barrier systems when predicting barrier island change during extreme events.

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  4. null (Ed.)
    Keystone species have large ecological effects relative to their abundance and have been identified in many ecosystems. However, global change is pervasively altering environmental conditions, potentially elevating new species to keystone roles. Here, we reveal that a historically innocuous grazer—the marsh crab Sesarma reticulatum —is rapidly reshaping the geomorphic evolution and ecological organization of southeastern US salt marshes now burdened by rising sea levels. Our analyses indicate that sea-level rise in recent decades has widely outpaced marsh vertical accretion, increasing tidal submergence of marsh surfaces, particularly where creeks exhibit morphologies that are unable to efficiently drain adjacent marsh platforms. In these increasingly submerged areas, cordgrass decreases belowground root:rhizome ratios, causing substrate hardness to decrease to within the optimal range for Sesarma burrowing. Together, these bio-physical changes provoke Sesarma to aggregate in high-density grazing and burrowing fronts at the heads of tidal creeks (hereafter, creekheads). Aerial-image analyses reveal that resulting “ Sesarma- grazed” creekheads increased in prevalence from 10 ± 2% to 29 ± 5% over the past <25 y and, by tripling creek-incision rates relative to nongrazed creekheads, have increased marsh-landscape drainage density by 8 to 35% across the region. Field experiments further demonstrate that Sesarma- grazed creekheads, through their removal of vegetation that otherwise obstructs predator access, enhance the vulnerability of macrobenthic invertebrates to predation and strongly reduce secondary production across adjacent marsh platforms. Thus, sea-level rise is creating conditions within which Sesarma functions as a keystone species that is driving dynamic, landscape-scale changes in salt-marsh geomorphic evolution, spatial organization, and species interactions. 
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