Impacts of Hurricane Matthew on adjacent developed and undeveloped barrier islands in southeastern North Carolina



Backstrom JT, Loureiro C & Eulie DO (2022) Impacts of Hurricane Matthew on adjacent developed and undeveloped barrier islands in southeastern North Carolina. Regional Studies in Marine Science, 53, Art. No.: 102391.

High-magnitude storms such as hurricanes can cause significant and potentially long-lasting morphological coastal change, particularly along low-lying barrier islands. This study investigated the impacts of Hurricane Matthew (2016) on neighboring undeveloped Masonboro Island reserve and engineered/nourished Wrightsville Beach barrier islands, located in southeast North Carolina. Using a combination of high-resolution pre- and post-storm RTK–GPS beach surveys, coupled with direct observations, storm surge and wave runup calculations and aerial imagery, a range of contrasting storm-induced coastal changes and impact regimes were identified across the two adjacent barriers. Storm impacts were especially pronounced across low-lying undeveloped central/southern Masonboro Island, which was dominated by significant overwash processes, leading to landward directed barrier crest migration. In contrast, only short-lived and minor collision with the dune base was observed at Wrightsville Beach, were storm impacts were dominated by a swash storm regime resulting in significant beach erosion. Field- and aerial based observations match well with modeled extreme water level estimates. This study offers a real-time example of how geomorphologically different neighboring islands respond to specific storm events, and how storm impact regime type and duration helps explain differences in barrier responses. Similar storm impacts are likely at other locations with comparable barrier island settings and differing coastal management approaches.

Storms; Overwash; Coastal erosion; RTK–GPS; Beach profiles; Frontal dunes; NERRS

Regional Studies in Marine Science: Volume 53

Publication date30/06/2022
Publication date online25/04/2022
Date accepted by journal15/04/2022
PublisherElsevier BV

People (1)


Dr Carlos Loureiro
Dr Carlos Loureiro

Lecturer in Physical Geography, Biological and Environmental Sciences