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Recent geomorphic evidence from the inner shelf and shoreface to the east of Long Island's barrier island system indicates that reworking of glacial outwash deposits at the inner shelf-shoreface transition, as sea level rises, may be supplying much of the sediment needed to maintain barrier islands to the west. A conceptual model describing sediment dispersal from outwash source areas was developed from this hypothesis. It was reasoned that outwash sediments ranging from silts to coarse gravels would be subject to differential transport paths across and along the shoreface upon reworking. Coarser grain sizes would move onshore toward the intertidal beach, whereas finer sediments would move offshore. Sand of intermediate grain size would be concentrated in the surf zone an move alongshore in wave-generated longshore currents.
To test this model, 400 samples from the beach and shoreface of Long Island were analyzed for grain-size frequency distribution and each grain-size class was examined for frequency of occurrence in the cross-shore and alongshore directions. On a spatially averaged basis, grain-size classes displayed peak abundance in specific zones across the shoreface as predicted by the model, but alongshore trends could not be recognized among the "noisy" data. Therefore, empirical orthogonal functions (EOF) were used to examine uncorrelated (orthogonal) modes of variability in the occurrence of each grain-size class in the alongshore direction. The first function, representing more than 60% of the variability among the data, showed that grain sizes subject to longshore transport in the surf zone i crease in frequency in the alongshore direction relative to coarser grain sizes. Results also show that peak concentrations of coarse sediments correspond to zones subject to frequent overwashing. It is concluded that EOF analysis of individual grain-size classes holds promise for extracting trends from noisy data sets.
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