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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2018-320
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2018-320
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 04 Dec 2018

Research article | 04 Dec 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).

Spatial distribution of water level impact to back-barrier bays

Alfredo L. Aretxabaleta, Neil K. Ganju, Zafer Defne, and Richard P. Signell Alfredo L. Aretxabaleta et al.
  • U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, 02543, USA

Abstract. Water level in semi-enclosed bays, landward of barrier islands, is mainly driven by offshore sea level fluctuations that are modulated by bay geometry and bathymetry, causing spatial variability in the ensuing response (transfer). Local wind setup can have a secondary role that depends on wind speed, fetch, and relative orientation of the wind direction and the bay. Inlet geometry and bathymetry primarily regulate the magnitude of the transfer between open ocean and bay. Tides and short-period offshore oscillations are more damped in the bays than longer-lasting offshore fluctuations, such as storm surge and sea level rise. We compare observed and modeled water levels at stations in a mid-Atlantic bay (Barnegat Bay) with offshore water level proxies. Observed water levels in Barnegat Bay are compared and combined with model results from the Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere–Wave–Sediment Transport (COAWST) modeling system to evaluate the spatial structure of the water level transfer. Analytical models based on the dimensional characteristics of the bay are used to combine the observed data and the numerical model results in a physically consistent approach. Model water level transfers match observed values at locations inside the Bay in the storm frequency band (transfers ranging from 70–100%) and tidal frequencies (10–55%). The contribution of frequency-dependent local setup caused by wind acting along the bay is also considered. The approach provides transfer estimates for locations inside the Bay where observations were not available resulting in a complete spatial characterization. The approach allows for the study of the Bay response to alternative forcing scenarios (landscape changes, future storms, and rising sea level). Detailed spatial estimates of water level transfer can inform decisions on inlet management and contribute to the assessment of current and future flooding hazard in back-barrier bays and along mainland shorelines.

Alfredo L. Aretxabaleta et al.
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Alfredo L. Aretxabaleta et al.
Alfredo L. Aretxabaleta et al.
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Short summary
Water level in bays is affected by open ocean changes and wind. Tides are more dampened in the bays than storm surge and sea level rise. We compare observed and modeled levels with ocean conditions and combine them with analytical models. The model matches observations: storm: 70–100 % of ocean levels and tides: 10–55 %. The approach can evaluate the response to landscape changes and future conditions. Spatial estimates of water level can inform decisions on inlet management and flooding hazard.
Water level in bays is affected by open ocean changes and wind. Tides are more dampened in the...
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