Coastal Storms Impacts & Barrier Island Dynamics
Barrier islands are low-lying, coast-parallel features shaped by ocean processes. The Outer Banks are a stunning example, and storms can provide a powerful reminder of their evolving nature. The character of barrier islands is related to their geologic history, ongoing coastal processes and human activities. Longshore transport, island overwash and inlet-opening are key processes affecting these systems. CP researchers are interested in understanding how barrier island form and change. This knowledge can inform habitat management, resource availability and hazard risks.
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The evolution of Ocracoke Island over the last several decades
Ocracoke Island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and is home to a quaint and popular tourism community. As a southern part of the Outer Banks, the island is prone to tropical cyclone activity and has experienced many systems in recorded history. Hurricane Isabel was a Category 2 system when it made landfall close to Ocracoke in 2003. Analysis of storm impacts, shoreline changes and sedimentary deposits show how Isabel caused island overwash locally, and the island has continued to change shape (see Figure below).