Document Type

Honors Paper


Douglas Thompson

Publication Date



Barrier beaches are highly dynamic systems that respond to variations in wave energy, increases in storm surge heights and changes in relative sea level. Bushy Point barrier beach is a barrier spit located in Groton, Connecticut, and is one of the last unconstrained barrier systems in the State of Connecticut. Since 1934, the morphology of the beach has been changing in response to storm events as well as the local rise in sea level. On September 21, 1938, a category three hurricane made landfall in southern New England and devastated many coastal communities, including a summer community on Bushy Point barrier beach. More recently, the storm surge generated by Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 also caused over-wash and significant retreat of the barrier spit. In order to create a history of the beach’s movement, multiple elevation transects were performed in 2012, 2013 and 2014, sediment samples were collected and analyzed, and data from multiple previous elevation surveys taken in 2003 after Hurricane Isabel and 2007 after Tropical Storm Noel was mapped. Additionally, five new survey locations were added to the original collection of data, in order to determine profile changes down the length of the barrier. These profile measurements coupled with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping and analysis of historical photographs demonstrate that Bushy Point barrier beach in Groton, Connecticut is moving inland at a rate that directly corresponds with the number of over-wash events associated with storm surge. The system is moving inland at higher rates at different points on the barrier, the highest rates being at the east end near the Bluff. The vulnerability of the east end of the barrier is directly related to the established energy regime of the barrier system, which incorporates fetch, sediment size, and prominent wind directions during major storm events. Sea-level rise due to anthropogenic climate change is causing a significant upward shift in high water levels during storms, and will continue to increase in the vulnerability of these coastal systems to be over-washed and pushed inland.

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The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.