Mid-Atlantic Coastal Storms

Robert Dolan, Harry Lins, Bruce Hayden

Abstract


Waves generated by extratropical storms are responsible for much of the coastal erosion that occurs along the Atlantic Coast. Between 1942 and 1984, 1349 storms producing waves high enough to cause measurable erosion of an open coast beach were investigated to determine their frequency, magnitude, and patterns of occurrence. The 5-month period December through April is the period of maximum storm frequency; 63 percent of all storms occurred during these months. Exploratory analysis of storm frequency and duration data indicates that the occurrence of very stormy months was high relative to a normal distribution. A systematic increase in the number of storms occurring in the months of May and October has resulted in a lengthening of the winter storm season and more abrupt transitions between winter and summer storm regimes. The total number of storms on a mean annual basis has remained unchanged during the period of record, but the average duration of storm waves has undergone a net decline which we attribute to an anomalous shift in the mean winter storm track that occurred during the mid-1970's.


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