Hurricane Sandy inflicted the equivalent of 30 years of erosion on the New York shoreline, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports in a new analysis.
Regarding the findings, USGS coastal geologist Cheryl Hapke says:
"We found that there was widespread dune erosion and overwash. On average, where the dunes were not completely overwashed, they eroded back 70 feet -- the equivalent of 30 years of change. Our research also showed that dunes lost as much as 15 feet of elevation."
'Our Last Line Of Natural Defense'
USGS Director Marcia McNutt says that "Coastal dunes are our last line of natural defense from the onslaught of storms and rising seas. They are dynamic features that retreat from the battering of major storms like Sandy."
Commenting on the data compiled by the USGS, research oceanographer Hilary Stockdon said: "This work can help coastal communities understand where they are most vulnerable to future storms. It will "help decision makers at all levels create policies that protect their economic, environmental, and ecological health in the coastal areas most susceptible to extreme storm impacts."
The information is based off an analysis called lidar, or light detection and ranging. Lidar uses lasers to measure elevations in a specific distance and area. USGS says that researchers used data collected during an airborne survey to formulate a three-dimensional map of the before and after storm conditions.
Scientists use this information to identify areas along the shore that have been made more vulnerable to future coastal hazards.