Aspects of northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOM) (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida panhandle) processes and barrier islands that are pertinent to their geomorphologic response are contrasted with the broader knowledge base summarized by Schwartz (1973) and Leatherman (1979, 1985). Salient findings from studies documenting the short-term (storm-induced; timescales of hours, days, and weeks) and long-term (timescales of years, decades, and centuries) response of barrier island systems in the NGOM are synthesized into a conceptual model. The conceptual model illustrates the hypothetical evolution of three barrier island morphologies as they evolve through a typical Category 1–2 hurricane, including poststorm recovery (days to weeks) and long-term evolution (years to decades). Primary factors in barrier island geomorphologic response to storms, regardless of location, are the elevation of the island relative to storm (surge plus setup) elevation, and duration of the storm. Unique aspects of the NGOM barrier islands, compared with knowledge summarized for other barrier types, include (1) storm paths, wind speed, and large bays that create the potential for both Gulf and bayshore erosion and (2) in Louisiana and Mississippi, the potential for loading of the underlying substrate by the barrier island, which, through time, increases consolidation, relative sea level rise, overwash, morphologic change, and migration. We recommend that design of large-scale beach restoration projects incorporate the potential for (1) time-dependent consolidation of the underlying sediment due to project loading and future migration, (2) Gulf and bayshore erosion and overwash, and (3) eolian transport toward the Gulf from north winds.
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Vol. 2009 • No. 251