The role of sediment compaction and groundwater withdrawal in local sea-level rise, Sandy Hook, New Jersey, USA

TitleThe role of sediment compaction and groundwater withdrawal in local sea-level rise, Sandy Hook, New Jersey, USA
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsJohnson, CS, Miller, KG, Browning, JV, Kopp, RE, Khan, NS, Fan, Y, Stanford, SD, Horton, BP
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Pagination30 - 42
Date PublishedJan-02-2018
KeywordsMarginal marine, North America, numerical modeling, Quaternary, Sea-level change, sedimentology

The rate of relative sea-level (RSL) rise at Sandy Hook, NJ (4.0 ± 0.5 mm/yr) was higher than The Battery, NY (3.0 ± 0.3 mm/yr) from 1900 to 2012 despite being separated by just 26 km. The difference cannot be explained by differential glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA; 1.4 ± 0.4 and 1.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr RSL rise, respectively) alone. We estimate the contribution of sediment compaction to subsidence at Sandy Hook using high-resolution grain size, percent organic matter, and porosity data from three upper Quaternary (≤13,350 cal yr) cores. The organic matter content (<2%) is too low to contribute to local subsidence. However, numerical modeling of the grain size-depth-age-porosity relationship indicates that compaction of deglacial silts likely reduced the column thickness by 10–20% over the past 13,350 cal yrs. While compaction rates were high immediately after the main silt deposition (13,350–13,150 cal yrs BP), rates decreased exponentially after deposition to an average 20th century rate of 0.16 mm/yr (90% Confidence Interval (C.I.), 0.06–0.32 mm/yr). The remaining ∼0.7 mm/yr (90% C.I. 0.3–1.2 mm/yr) difference in subsidence between Sandy Hook and The Battery is likely due to anthropogenic groundwater withdrawal. Historical data from Fort Hancock wells (2 km to the southeast of the Sandy Hook tide gauge) and previous regional work show that local and regional water extraction lowered the water levels in the aquifers underlying Sandy Hook. We suggest that the modern order of contribution to subsidence (highest to lowest) appears to be GIA, local/regional groundwater extraction, and compaction of thick Quaternary silts.