Coasts / Shorelines

Sunset at Fire Island

Never the Same Twice

Barrier island shorelines are constantly on the move. On a daily basis the wind and waves are shaping and reshaping the shoreline. These daily changes are mostly gradual and barely perceptible. When you visit the beach regularly, you may see only small changes like shifts in the high tide or wrack line.

But after a storm, natural landscape change is more obvious. Natural storm-driven change can cause striking differences in the barrier island landscape.

During storms, high water levels and large waves can scour sand from the dunes and beach face. In some places the force of moving water may push sand over the top of dunes and across the width of the island toward the Great South Bay.

Such larger-scale shifts serve as a reference point from which we can observe smaller more gradual changes in our shoreline. Whether slow or sudden, subtle or obvious, natural landscape change is certain and is an integral part of the evolution of the barrier island.

Studying the Shifting Sands of the Seashore

Shoreline science helps the National Park Service better understand the movement of sand along our dynamic shores and is central to our goal of protecting Fire Island National Seashore for future generations.

  • The U.S. Geological Survey and Stony Brook University have studied the way the shape and position of the wilderness breach has changed since it was created in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy.
  • Learn more about the ever-changing barrier island landscape on Fire Island.
  • Take a look at how climate change is impacting national parks, how the National Park Service is responding to these challenges, and how you can help.
Graphic promoting MyCoast App.

Help Document Flooding and Storm Impacts

The MyCoast New York portal is used to collect and analyze photos of changing water levels, shorelines, and hazardous weather impacts across New York’s varied coasts and water bodies. Photos are linked to real-time environmental conditions to create reports that help stakeholders like government agencies, business owners, and residents understand our changing environment and make informed decisions.

Download the MyCoast app or visit for more information.

Last updated: April 22, 2024

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