U.S. Coastal Research Program’s During Nearshore Event Experiment begins fall 2021

U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center
Published July 21, 2021
Researchers from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center's Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory’s Field Research Facility position equipment along the shore in Duck, North Carolina, in preparation of the During Nearshore Event Experiment beginning fall 2021 along the Outer Banks.

Researchers from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center's Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory’s Field Research Facility position equipment along the shore in Duck, North Carolina, in preparation of the During Nearshore Event Experiment beginning fall 2021 along the Outer Banks. DUNEX is a multi-agency, academic and non-governmental organization collaborative community experiment to study the physical processes behind storm impacts to beaches, dunes and coastal communities.

DUCK, N.C., — Leading coastal scientists and engineers from across the U.S. will descend upon the Outer Banks of North Carolina this fall as part of the U.S. Coastal Research Program’s During Nearshore Event Experiment, or DUNEX, to study the physical processes behind storm impacts to beaches, dunes and coastal communities.  

The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory’s Field Research Facility will serve as a central location for researchers to plan and execute experiments designed to collect comprehensive observations during extreme coastal storms. The experiments will be developed  across a range of disciplines to help researchers understand the compounding effects of storm-induced coastal hazards on local communities and infrastructure. Results from this effort will help coastal communities make informed decisions related to safety and economics and improve the development of coastal resilience strategies.

A multi-agency collaborative initiative, DUNEX began in fall 2019 with a pilot effort that allowed individual research groups to test and develop unique observational capabilities and strategies to enable their instruments to withstand extreme environments. 

Beginning fall 2021 and extending into winter 2022, scientists will deploy state-of-the-art oceanographic instrumentation in the path of any hurricanes and nor’easters that impact the Outer Banks. Using observational technologies before, during and after these events, federal agency and university researchers will work together to improve understanding and predictive capabilities of extreme storm impacts to the coast. Their research will also provide data of the changing coastline and the forces driving that change — waves, currents and wind.

“To better protect our coastal communities we need to better model, understand and predict the complex and dynamic nearshore environment,” said Dr. Brittany Bruder, a research oceanographer with the ERDC’s Field Research Facility. “This requires real-world measurements across a wide range of distances, durations and disciplines. DUNEX is an excellent opportunity for researchers to collaborate and share resources to achieve this and serve coastal communities.”

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agency researchers and academic leaders, formed the DUNEX leadership team, which has been engaged in all aspects of planning for this multi-agency, multi-academic field experiment. Their efforts address everything from logistical support, communications, hands-on training for early career researchers and data management, as well as participant coordination. 

Through this scientific collaborative effort, DUNEX scientists will collect a comprehensive data set that can be used to investigate physical processes and impacts of an extreme storm to better understand and predict storm processes and impacts. By building relationships between scientists and communities, DUNEX will inform strategies for short- and long-term coastal resilience.

U.S. Coastal Research Program:

The U.S. Coastal Research Program is a national coastal effort to coordinate federal activities, strengthen academic programs and address coastal community needs. The program is organizing and facilitating the execution of DUNEX through a variety of activities designed to encourage collaboration and outreach. They currently provide a standing virtual forum focused on information sharing, project planning and collaborative discussions and maintain a community website with the details of ongoing experiments and access to data and data collection efforts. They also coordinate logistical support and assist stakeholders in promoting DUNEX to a multi-disciplinary audience and facilitate training classes and student volunteers to further the career development of the coastal researchers.

U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center:

The ERDC is the research and development arm of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. World- renowned in public and military engineering research and development, the organization helps solve the nation’s most challenging problems in civil and military engineering, geospatial sciences, water resources and environmental sciences. As part of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory addresses an entire spectrum of water resource challenges in groundwater, watersheds, rivers, reservoirs, estuaries, harbors, coastal inlets and wetlands. The laboratory’s Field Research Facility is an internationally recognized observatory and premier location for coastal field studies.

Located on the Atlantic Ocean near the town of Duck, North Carolina, the Field Research Facility serves as the physical location for the main part of the DUNEX effort. The facility has a rich, multi-decadal history of physical process data and morphology change observations that researchers can leverage in their data collection efforts. 

The historical data includes more than 40 years of bathymetric and topography data, a cross-shore array of wave observations from the 26-meter water depth to the dune, current measurements inshore of the 17-meter depth, water levels from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tide gage at the end of the research pier, and an 8-meter depth array providing frequency-directional wave measurements. The facility also has remote sensing capabilities mounted in the dune in line with the cross-shore array that measures nearshore waves, runup and beach topography. A tower-mounted system of cameras provides spatially variable, remotely sensed nearshore data, such as wave runup, bathymetry and bar location. Wind, atmospheric pressure and rainfall measurements are collected on the pier.

In addition to traditional measurements, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers researchers will be participating in DUNEX to improve understanding of overwash processes, aoelian processes, in situ and remote sensing of swash processes, wave measurements with miniature wave buoys, as well as a longshore current analysis using instrumented “drifters.”


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