Impacts of Tidal Inlet Formation on the Physical Characteristics of a Barrier Beach—Estuary System

by Graham S. Giese, Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst, United States,
James T. Liu, Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst, United States,
David G. Aubrey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Barrier Islands: Process and Management


A new tidal inlet at Nauset Beach, an 11 km-long barrier beach in Chatham, Massachusetts, has severely impacted the physical characteristics of the estuary-barrier beach system of which it now forms a major part. Morphology, tidal characteristics, circulation, wave patterns, and sediment transport within the system have undergone large interactive adjustments, and those adjustments, in turn, are forcing adjustments in the system's biological and human-use characteristics. We report the results of monitoring these physical changes using vertical aerial photography, topographic surveying, bathymetric surveying, tide gauges, and current meters. The results indicate that within one year of the initial barrier beach breaching, the system has switched morphologically and hydrodynamically from its pre-breach condition to one controlled by the new tidal inlet. As an alternative means of environmental management, communities may find that they are better able to preserve their coastal and estuarine resources by predicting and planning for tidal inlet changes than by attempting to prevent them.

Subject Headings: Topographic surveys | Tides | Inlets (waterway) | Barrier islands | Coastal management | Aerial surveys | Water resources | Beaches | Massachusetts | United States

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