Factors Controlling the Survival of Coastal Dunes During Multiple Hurricane Impacts in 2004 and 2005: Santa Rosa Barrier Island, Florida

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barrier islands, hurricanes, coastal dunes, storms, Gulf of Mexico, Florida

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Santa Rosa Island is an 85 km-long, wave-dominated low-lying barrier island situated along the northwestern Florida coast, facing the Gulf of Mexico. The entire island was severely impacted by Ivan, a strong category 3 hurricane that made landfall about 45 km to the west in September of 2004. Ten months later in July of 2005, Dennis, another category 3 hurricane, made landfall about 30 km east of the western tip of the island. Santa Rosa Island is characterized by well-developed but relatively low dunefields, described in this paper as incipient and established dunes, based on the presence of grassy and woody types of vegetation, respectively. The dunes were severely eroded by the two hurricanes. This paper investigates the factors controlling the regional-scale destruction and survival of the dunefields.

Dune survival is controlled by: 1) hurricane characteristics, including intensity, duration, and frequency, and 2) morphological parameters including width of the barrier island, height and width of the dunefields, vegetation type, distance of the dunes to the ocean, and continuity of the dunefields. Three processes of dune destruction are described including, from most to least severe, inundation, overwash, and scarping. The interaction of all the above factors determines the different dune responses to the storm impacts. In general, the extensive and densely woody vegetated dunefields near the bay-side shoreline survived the storms, while the discontinuous dunes with grassy vegetation near the Gulf shoreline were almost completely destroyed.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Geomorphology, v. 95, issues 3-4, p. 295-315

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