Coastal Flooding & Solutions, Workshop Case Studies

Real-Time Monitoring Network for the South Coast of Rhode Island and Narragansett Bay

Location: Narragansett Bay and Southern Shores, Rhode Island

Submitted By: John W. King - University of Rhode Island, Professor of Oceanography

Project Description

Researchers from the University of Rhode Island, in partnership with Rhode Island CRMC and local municipalities, have established a pilot erosion monitoring network to improve understanding of how Rhode Island’s coastal environments respond to storm events. The program represents the first phase of establishing a long-term assessment and monitoring network that couples nearshore wave and current data with contemporaneous measurements of the shoreline response (erosion/accretion) along the state’s southern coast and in portions of Narragansett Bay. The instrumentation network features an array of real-time sensors (providing wave height, current speed, and tidal height data) combined with terrestrial LiDAR and bathymetric sonar surveys to monitor costal erosion and nearshore sediment dynamics at regular intervals and after storms. Beach volume has been monitored with traditional survey methods at several beaches on the RI South Shore since 1963, the longest time-series of its’ kind available globally. The system described herein is intended to continue the traditional time-series monitoring effort and improve and expand it to a statewide system. Since 2017, this system has been used in local studies to evaluate effectiveness of coastal restoration projects and to provide morphology data for model validation. We seek to expand and operationalize this network with the goals of: (i) better understanding the response of Rhode Island’s coastal environments to storm events (erosion and subsequent beach recovery), (ii) identifying erosion hot spots and their causes, (iii) providing high resolution, regularly updated topographic and bathymetric datasets for use in storm surge, wave, and erosion modeling systems (e.g. ADCIRC-SWAN-XBEACH), (iv) siting and performance evaluation of shoreline adaptation efforts, and (v) developing an archive of observation data for long-term sea level rise impacts.

Key Successes

Components of the monitoring system have been successfully deployed and tested over the last few years through a series of pilot studies: Maggi et al. (2017) – NSF RAPID grant to monitor the stability and performance of reinforced dunes (geotubes), Montauk Beach, NY. Schambach et al. (2018) – pre- and post-storm elevation profiles used to validate a local application of the XBeach morphodynamic model. (Coastal Engineering 133, 26–42) Scannel (2019) – Use of terrestrial LiDAR to measure changes in beach volume along the RI south shore. (MS thesis)


Uncertainty about sustained funding for: Ongoing field efforts Maintenance of existing equipment Expansion of monitoring network into Narragansett Bay

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