Shoreline Dynamics

Aerial image of overwash fans pushed across the island by waves.

Barrier Island Change

Wind, waves, tides, and currents are constantly moving sand about, pushing sediment to, from, and along the shoreline. The energy of crashing waves forms a current in the surf zone referred to as longshore transport or littoral drift, which moves sand particles westward along the shore. Wind and waves also transport sediment across the island, from a sand bar just offshore to the beach and dunes, and, during powerful storms, to the interior of the island, bay shoreline, and open bay.

The complex natural processes that move sediment about the island are influenced by many factors, among them, wind and wave energy, the amount of sediment available, and human activity. The beach is also shaped and reshaped on various time scales. The shoreline shifts from day to day and from season to season, while the island itself evolves more gradually over decades and centuries.

Science helps us 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. Learn more about some of the shoreline studies taking place on Fire Island.

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11 minutes, 1 second

Take a closer look at the forces that shape Fire Island. (11 minutes)

Last updated: November 14, 2016

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