USGS placing instruments on Pea Island to study wave heights, water levels during storms

A novel stereo CoastCam will be installed on at dune at Pea Island for the duration of the experiment. This photo shows a similar CoastCam installation at Marconi Beach, Cape Cod National Seashore. [courtesy USGS]

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey have begun deploying scientific instruments in Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to continuously measure wave heights, water levels, and currents to study nearshore coastal processes during coastal storms.

These installations are extremely hazardous and the public is advised not to swim, surf, fish or boat near them or between the signage on the beach and to be cautious of currents that may cause anyone to drift into the hazardous area.

This study is a collaboration between the USGS, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Coastal Research Program, as well as North Carolina State University, and University of North Carolina Wilmington and Chapel Hill.

The cooperators have worked together to inform the U.S. Coast Guard, local marinas, surf shops and other business in the local area about the equipment installations.

They’ve also distributed flyers to visitor centers and they will be posting warning signs at the study site to inform beachgoers of the danger of the equipment in the water and nearby area.

The Pea Island cross-shore array will pose a hazard to swimmers, boaters, fisherman, and surfers in the nearshore and the area should be avoided about 50 m to either side of the array and up to a kilometer offshore. [image courtesy Jin-Si Over, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center]

This instrument deployment will involve installing more than a dozen metal pipes from the dunes into the surf zone. The 3-inch diameter poles are 15 feet long, with about 5 feet extending out of the ground and seabed. Multiple instruments will be mounted at varying heights on each pole, creating hazards throughout the water column. Depending on tides and water conditions, the poles and instruments installed in the water might not always be visible from the surface.

Timing of the installations depend on weather and wave conditions, were scheduled to start late last week and take about 10 days to complete. The poles and instruments will remain in place until mid-November or later.

The instruments will be installed in Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge just south of New Inlet. The study area for these instruments will be roughly 300 feet wide along the beach and stretch about 2,000 feet offshore.

These instruments will be installed for the “During Nearshore Event Experiment” project, also called DUNEX. This project aims to increase scientific understanding of coastal storm impacts to beaches, dunes and coastal communities. The data collected from Pea Island and other DUNEX study locations will allow scientists to create more accurate storm forecast and coastal change models and will provide coastal communities and decision-makers information that can be used to develop strategies for improved coastal resilience.

DUNEX is a collaborative experiment and involves multiple federal agencies, academia and non-governmental organizations. Learn more about the DUNEX project here:

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