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An empirical orthogonal function analysis of ocean shoreline location on the Virginia barrier islands
  • James Haluska
James Haluska

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Shoreline change along the Eastern Atlantic shore of Virginia has been studied for the individual barrier islands but not as an integrated system. This study combines the Atlantic shoreline locations for eleven barrier islands obtained from LANDSAT 5, 7, and 8 images. Approximately 250 shoreline locations over a 24-year period from Jan 1990 to Dec 2014 were extracted from the digitized shoreline data at 338 transects. The resulting 338 by 250 matrix was analyzed by the empirical orthogonal function (EOF) technique. The first four principal components (PC) explained 86 percent of the sample variance. Since the data was not detrended, the first PC was the overall trend of the data with a discontinuity in 2004-2005. The 2004-2005 years included storm events and large shoreline changes. PCs 2 to 4 reflect the effects of El Nino events and tropical and non-tropical storms. Eigenvectors 1 to 4 all show the effects of the nine inlets in the island group. Eigenvector (EV) 1 explains 59 percent of the shoreline spatial variance and shows the largest changes at the northern and southern island ends. EVs 2 to 4 reflect the pattern of EV1 but at sequentially smaller percentages of the spatial variance. As a group, the eleven islands are losing ocean side shoreline. The lone exception is Hog Island. Sea level had the strongest correlation with the shoreline loss trend of PC1. The coefficient of determination was 0.41. The NAO and MEI also correlated with PC1 with correlations of determination of 0.05 and 0.12 respectively. These confidence level for the three factors was better than 99 percent. Sea level also correlated with PC3 and PC4. The PCs as a group show that the year intervals 2004-2005 and 2009-2010 had large effects on the shoreline change pattern for the island group. EVs 1 to 4 had the highest range of shoreline change at the island ends indicating the effect the changes of the inlets have on the adjacent islands. The smaller islands as a group had a higher level of eigenvector variance than the other eight islands. Sea level change is the major factor affecting the ocean shorelines of these islands. Continued sea level increase will facilitate loss of ocean shoreline for the barrier islands as a group.