Quantifying overwash flux in barrier systems: An example from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, USA

TitleQuantifying overwash flux in barrier systems: An example from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, USA
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCarruthers, EA, D. Lane, P, Evans, RL, Donnelly, JP, Ashton, AD
JournalMarine Geology
Pagination15 - 28
Date PublishedJan-09-2013
Keywordsbarrier system, Coastal evolution, overwash flux, sea-level rise, storm impacts

Coastal barriers are particularly susceptible to the effects of accelerated sea-level rise and intense storms. Over centennial scales, barriers are maintained via overtopping during storms, which causes deposition of washover fans on their landward sides. Understanding barrier evolution under modern conditions can help evaluate the likelihood of future barrier stability. This study examines three washover fans on the undeveloped south shore of Martha's Vineyard using a suite of vibracores, ground penetrating radar, high resolution dGPS, and LiDAR data. From these data, the volumes of the deposits were determined and range from 2.1 to 2.4 × 104 m3. Two of these overwash events occurred during Hurricane Bob in 1991. The water levels produced by this storm have a calculated return interval of ~ 28 years, implying an onshore sediment flux of 2.4–3.4 m3/m/yr. The third washover was deposited by a nor'easter in January 1997, which has a water level return interval of ~ 6 years, suggesting a flux of 8.5 m3/m/yr. These onshore fluxes are smaller than the erosional flux of sediment resulting from shoreline retreat, suggesting that the barrier is not in long-term equilibrium, a result supported by the thinning of the barrier in recent years.