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Barrier Island Groundwater Dynamics

Rachel Housego, Ph.D., 2021
Britt Raubenheimer, Advisor
Measurements of groundwater heads, salinities, and temperatures collected for 3 years across a 550-m-wide barrier island are used in conjunction with observations of ocean tides, surge, waves, sound level, and rainfall to characterize the dynamics of the surface aquifer. Infiltration from surge, tides, and waves during storms caused up to 2 m increases in the groundwater level under the dune. The head gradients owing to these storm-induced groundwater bulges suggest flows become inland directed on the ocean-side of the island during storms. An upper saline plume (20-30 PSU) was observed above fresher (10 PSU) water up to 30 m inland of the dune face, which was the maximum wave runup location. Differences in inland propagation between tidal- and storm-induced groundwater head fluctuations are explained using analytical theories for intermediate depth aquifers. Additionally, a separate analytical water-table evolution model driven with estimated ocean shoreline water levels (based on the 36-hr-averaged offshore tide, surge, and wave height) and measured precipitation is validated by citizen-science flood reports and predicts the maximum water-table height within 0.1 m of the observed levels across the barrier island.