Journal of Marine Science & Engineering,

Following the Sand Grains

May 5, 2022

Author(s): Duncan M. Fitzgerald, Zoe J. Hughes, Alice Staro, Christopher J. Hein, Md Mohiuddin Sakib, Alyssa Novak

When longshore transport systems encounter tidal inlets, complex mechanisms are involved in bypassing sand to downdrift barriers. Here, this process is examined at Plum Island Sound and Essex Inlets, Massachusetts, USA. One major finding from this study is that sand is transferred along the coast—especially at tidal inlets—by parcels, in discrete steps, and over decadal-scale periods. The southerly orientation of the main-ebb channel at Plum Island Sound, coupled with the landward migration of bars from the ebb delta to the central portion of the downdrift Castle Neck barrier island, have formed a beach protuberance. During the constructional phase, sand is sequestered at the protuberance and the spit-end of the barrier becomes sediment starved, leading to shoreline retreat and a broadening of the spit platform at the mouth to Essex Bay (downdrift side of Castle Neck). Storm-induced sand transport from erosion of the spit and across the spit platform is washed into Essex Bay, filling channels and enlarging flood deltas. This study illustrates the pathways and processes of sand transfer along the shoreline of a barrier-island/tidal-inlet system and provides an important example of the processes that future hydrodynamic and sediment-transport modeling should strive to replicate. Paper here.