Outer Banks Coastal Research – Rhythms

Outer Banks Coastal Research – Rhythms

Music; Ambience: Ocean waves, wind

Talk to a scientist who studies the coastline, and you get the feeling that the beach is a dynamic entity – constantly responding to the forces of nature, and the rhythms of those changes follow a seasonal pattern. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Bill Birkemeier is director of the Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

“The summer is a quiescent time. We move into the fall when storms begin in September and October, the late hurricanes of August. They interact with the beach. The beach tends to erode during that time. We’re stormy through April and early May. And so the sand that has moved off the beach continues to either move further offshore and move down the coast as well, and then as the seasons change and the summer arrives, the waves get low again, and the sand migrates back up onto the beach. And we have typically nice beaches when the visitors are here. And then the process repeats. It’s punctuated by events, a year where we might have a Hurricane Isabel , then the process may get a little blip in it that takes a little longer for the beaches to recover. A little less sand appears on the beach than it did in the previous year or a little more sand, and so that goes on continuously at the beach, through changes in the conditions.”

Over the past 30 years on the Outer Banks, rising seas and changes in land elevation have led to a measurable sea level rise of 6 inches, but the researchers tend to regard this in the context of a larger picture.

“Ten thousand years ago sea level was 300 feet lower than it is today. As the sea level has crept up over those 10,000 years, the edges of whatever land masses are there have been arranged, evolved to the present state they are today.”

We’ll hear more on coastline research in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

Outer Banks Coastal Research - Rhythms

Following the seasonal rhythms of the shoreline conveys the impression that it is a dynamic entity, constantly responding to the forces of nature.
Air Date:08/20/2009
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Transcript:

Outer Banks Coastal Research - Rhythms

Music; Ambience: Ocean waves, wind

Talk to a scientist who studies the coastline, and you get the feeling that the beach is a dynamic entity - constantly responding to the forces of nature, and the rhythms of those changes follow a seasonal pattern. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Bill Birkemeier is director of the Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

"The summer is a quiescent time. We move into the fall when storms begin in September and October, the late hurricanes of August. They interact with the beach. The beach tends to erode during that time. We’re stormy through April and early May. And so the sand that has moved off the beach continues to either move further offshore and move down the coast as well, and then as the seasons change and the summer arrives, the waves get low again, and the sand migrates back up onto the beach. And we have typically nice beaches when the visitors are here. And then the process repeats. It's punctuated by events, a year where we might have a Hurricane Isabel , then the process may get a little blip in it that takes a little longer for the beaches to recover. A little less sand appears on the beach than it did in the previous year or a little more sand, and so that goes on continuously at the beach, through changes in the conditions."

Over the past 30 years on the Outer Banks, rising seas and changes in land elevation have led to a measurable sea level rise of 6 inches, but the researchers tend to regard this in the context of a larger picture.

"Ten thousand years ago sea level was 300 feet lower than it is today. As the sea level has crept up over those 10,000 years, the edges of whatever land masses are there have been arranged, evolved to the present state they are today."

We'll hear more on coastline research in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.