Recovery of Sand on Narragansett Town Beach Following Winter Storms

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Beaches are dynamic environments. They move and change in response to storms, winds, waves, and currents. During extreme storms, a great deal of sand can be eroded. The sand removed during a strong or extreme storm is normally deposited offshore. In some cases, some of the eroded beach sand may also be transported along the coast. In the case of Narragansett Town Beach, eroded sand is deposited by storms past the surf break, forming a sandbar. Some of the sand may be carried northward toward the mouth of Narrow River. However, much of the sand eroded during our recent winter storms was most likely deposited in a newly formed sandbar just off the beach.


Part of the natural beach cycle is for sand to eventually return to the beach. This redeposition will occur after the winter storm season has passed. Waves, tides, and winds will transport sand from where it was deposited during the storms back onto the beach’s berm (the upper part of the beach above the high tide line.) How quickly the sand will return to the beach depends on prevailing onshore winds and wave action, as well as the time that elapses between storms. In addition, high tides can also contribute to the natural redeposition process.


The more severe the storm and greater the erosion event, the longer it can take for the beach to recover. If there is overwash during a storm, as there was this winter, sand is carried inland from the top of the dunes. Therefore, some of the sand is available to be manually brought back to the dunes. The calmer the weather is during the spring and early summer, the more quickly the sand will return to the berm. In a ten-year (2004-2014) study conducted by Australian scientists, the average recovery time to pre-storm beach widths following a major loss of 25-30 m beach width was 8-12 months, while a smaller magnitude loss of 20-25 m of beach width was 5-7 months. Of course, this is just an example, and no research has been done on sand recovery times for our Town Beach. The Town may need to consider some beach nourishment for the 2024 beach season, but by mid-summer, a majority of sand removed by recent storms will hopefully be back on our beach.

Picture of NTRA Board

NTRA Board