Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 8, pp 2172–2190 | Cite as

Great South Bay After Sandy: Changes in Circulation and Flushing due to New Inlet

  • Claudia HinrichsEmail author
  • Charles N. Flagg
  • Robert E. Wilson


The coastal ocean model FVCOM is applied to quantify the changes in circulation, flushing, and exposure time in Great South Bay, New York, after Superstorm Sandy breached the barrier island in 2012. Since then, the lagoon system is connected to the Atlantic via five instead of four inlets. The model simulations are run on two high-resolution unstructured grids, one for the pre-breach configuration, one including the new inlet, with tidal-only forcing, and summer and winter forcing conditions. Despite its small cross-sectional size, the breach has a relatively large net inflow that leads to a strengthening of the along-bay through-flow in Great South Bay (GSB); the tidally driven volume transport in central GSB quadrupled. The seasonal forcing scenarios show that the southwesterly sea breeze in summer slows down the tidally driven flow, while the forcing conditions in winter are highly variable, and the circulation is dependent on wind direction and offshore sea level. Changes in flushing and exposure time associated with the modified transport patterns are evaluated using a Eulerian passive tracer technique. Results show that the new inlet produced a significant decrease in flushing time (approximately 35% reduction under summer wind conditions and 20% reduction under winter wind conditions). Maps of exposure time reflect the local changes in circulation and flushing.


Multi-inlet lagoon Breach Circulation Flushing time FVCOM 



The authors wish to acknowledge the support of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (AM08782 OGL MOU). The findings and interpretations of the data contained in this paper are the responsibility of Stony Brook University and do not necessarily represent the opinions, interpretations, or policy of the Department. Funding for this effort was also supplied by the U.S. National Park Service (P13AC00681). The model simulations were performed on the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) platform, which is supported by National Science Foundation grant number ACI-1548562. We are also very thankful for the advice from Lianyuan Zheng from the University of South Florida on how to implement the model dye module. The bathymetric representation of the breach in the model grid is based on surveys conducted by Roger D. Flood and Charles N. Flagg from Stony Brook University and Lidar data was obtained from USGS. Water quality data was obtained from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

Supplementary material

12237_2018_423_MOESM1_ESM.docx (647 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 647 kb)


  1. Aikman, F., and L.W.J. Lanerolle. 2005. Report on the NOS workshop on residence/flushing times in bays and estuaries. US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.Google Scholar
  2. Aretxabaleta, A.L., N.K. Ganju, B. Butman, and R.P. Signell. 2017. Observations and a linear model of water level in an interconnected inlet-bay system. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 122 (4): 2760–2780.Google Scholar
  3. Bokuniewicz, H., and B. Pavlik. 1990. Groundwater seepage along a barrier island. Biogeochemistry 10 (3): 257–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bruun, P., A.J. Mehta, and I.G. Johnsson. 1978. Stability of tidal inlets: theory and engineering. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  5. Carter, H. 1981. A dye diffusion study of Great South Bay. Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York.Google Scholar
  6. Chen, C., H. Liu, and R.C. Beardsley. 2003. An unstructured grid, finite-volume, three-dimensional, primitive equations ocean model: application to coastal ocean and estuaries. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology 20 (1): 159–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Conley, D.C. 2000. Numerical modeling of Fire Island storm breach impacts upon circulation and water quality of Great South Bay, NY. Special Report. Stony Brook University. Accessed at
  8. de Brauwere, A., B. De Brye, S. Blaise, and E. Deleersnijder. 2011. Residence time, exposure time and connectivity in the Scheldt Estuary. Journal of Marine Systems 84 (3-4): 85–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Delhez, E. 2006. Transient residence and exposure times. Ocean Science 2 (1): 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Egbert, G.D., and S.Y. Erofeeva. 2002. Efficient inverse modeling of barotropic ocean tides. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology 19 (2): 183–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fisher, H., E. List, R. Koh, J. Imberger, and N. Brooks. 1979. Mixing in inland and coastal waters. Academic Press. New York.Google Scholar
  12. James, W. 2013. On Long Island coast, an unexpected gift from hurricane Sandy. The Atlantic. Nov 13, 2013.Google Scholar
  13. Kremer, J.N., J.M. Vaudrey, D.S. Ullman, D.L. Bergondo, N. LaSota, C. Kincaid, D.L. Codiga, and M.J. Brush. 2010. Simulating property exchange in estuarine ecosystem models at ecologically appropriate scales. Ecological Modelling 221 (7): 1080–1088.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Liu, J.T. 1992. The influence of episodic weather events on tidal residual currents: a case study at Sebastian Inlet, Florida. Estuaries and Coasts 15 (2): 109–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Monsen, N.E., J.E. Cloern, L.V. Lucas, and S.G. Monismith. 2002. A comment on the use of flushing time, residence time, and age as transport time scales. Limnology and Oceanography 47 (5): 1545–1553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Pritchard, D.W., and E. Gomez-Reyes. 1986. A study of the effects of inlet dimensions on salinity distribution in Great South Bay. Special Report. Stony Brook University. Accessed at
  17. Ranasinghe, R., C. Pattiaratchi, and G. Masselink. 1998. Seasonal inlet closure: governing processes. Journal of Coastal Research: 32–41.Google Scholar
  18. Redfield, A.C. 1952. Report to the towns of Brookhaven and Islip, NY on the hydrography of Great South Bay and Moriches Bay: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.Google Scholar
  19. Salles, P. 2001. Hydrodynamic controls on multiple tidal inlet persistence. Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.Google Scholar
  20. SCHDS. 2016. Surface water quality monitoring data provided by the SCDHS Office of Ecology, Yaphank, N.Y., ed. Suffolk County Department of Health Services.Google Scholar
  21. Schmeltz, E., R. Sorensen, M. McCarthy, and G. Nersesian. 1982. Breach/inlet interaction at Moriches inlet. Paper presented at the 18th International Conference on Coastal Engineering, Cape Town, South Africa, November 14–19, 1982.Google Scholar
  22. Schubel, J., T.M. Bell, and H. Carter. 1991. The Great South Bay. SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  23. Schwab, W.C., E.R. Thieler, J.R. Allen, D.S. Foster, B.A. Swift, and J.F. Denny. 2000. Influence of inner-continental shelf geologic framework on the evolution and behavior of the barrier-island system between Fire Island Inlet and Shinnecock Inlet, Long Island, New York. Journal of Coastal Research 16 (2): 408–422.Google Scholar
  24. Smith, N.P. 1994. Water, salt and heat balance of coastal lagoons. In Elsevier Oceanography Series, 69–101.Google Scholar
  25. Stauble, D.K., S.L. Da Costa, K.L. Monroe, and V.K. Bhogal. 1988. Inlet flood tidal delta development through sediment transport processes. In Hydrodynamics and sediment dynamics of tidal inlets, 319–347. Springer.Google Scholar
  26. United States Army Corps of Engineers. 1996. Breach Contingeny Plan, accessed at in September 2017.
  27. U.S. Geological Survey. 2016. National Water Information System data available on the World Wide Web (USGS Water Data for the Nation); (accessed 10 January 2018).
  28. van de Kreeke, J., and R. Brouwer. 2017. Tidal inlets: hydrodynamics and morphodynamics. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Vieira, M.E., and R. Chant. 1993. On the contribution of subtidal volume fluxes to algal blooms in Long Island estuaries. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 36 (1): 15–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vogel, M.J., and T.W. Kana. 1985. Sedimentation patterns in a tidal inlet system, Moriches Inlet, New York. Paper presented at the 19th International Conference on Coastal Engineering, Houston, Texas, United States September 3–7, 1984.Google Scholar
  31. Willmott, C.J. 1981. On the validation of models. Physical Geography 2: 184–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wong, K.-C., and R.E. Wilson. 1984. Observations of low-frequency variability in Great South Bay and relations to atmospheric forcing. Journal of Physical Oceanography 14 (12): 1893–1900.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Yang, D. 2014. Wind-driven dispersion, residence time and connectivity of great south bay. Doctoral dissertation, Stony Brook University.Google Scholar
  34. Yu, J., R. Wilson, and C. Flagg. 2017. A hydraulic model for multiple-bay-inlet systems on barrier islands. Estuaries and Coasts: 1–11.Google Scholar
  35. Zhu, J., R.H. Weisberg, L. Zheng, and S. Han. 2015. On the flushing of Tampa Bay. Estuaries and Coasts 38 (1): 118–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany
  2. 2.School of Marine and Atmospheric SciencesStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA

Personalised recommendations