Mulcahy, N.; Kennedy, D.M., and Blanchon, P., 2016. Hurricane-induced shoreline change and post-storm recovery: northeastern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. In: Vila-Concejo, A.; Bruce, E.; Kennedy, D.M., and McCarroll, R.J. (eds.), Proceedings of the 14th International Coastal Symposium (Sydney, Australia). Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, No. 75, pp. 1192 - 1196. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
Storms are major drivers of shoreline change on barrier beach systems. In tropical environments many such systems are fronted by coral reefs; however, little is known about how these reefal structures influence beach response during hurricanes. This study provides a detailed assessment of the impacts of Hurricane Wilma on the coral-fringed barrier beaches of the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Hurricane Wilma made landfall in late October 2005 as a Category 4 storm, bringing sustained wind speeds of 67 ms−1, and storm waves with significant wave heights (Hs) ≈ 13 m. To determine the impact of Hurricane Wilma, satellite imagery was used in conjunction with beach profile data to quantify immediate storm impacts and subsequent shoreline recovery. The beaches responded to storm waves in two broadly different ways. Reef-protected beaches accreted by between 2.1 and 24.6 m, while unprotected beaches underwent erosion of over 10 m. In the years following Hurricane Wilma, reef-protected beaches transgressed landwards as they readjusted to their pre-storm equilibrium shoreline position. Exposed beaches responded much more rapidly, with the majority of shoreline adjustment occurring within eight months of the storm; however, the responses were found to be highly variable alongshore. The results indicate that, under contemporary climatic conditions, hurricanes are key drivers of barrier beach evolution over the short to medium terms, but are not so influential over longer time scales.