Document Type



Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor's Name

Keqi Zhang

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Stephen Leatherman

Third Advisor's Name

Michael Ross


Barrier Island, Sea Level Rise

Date of Defense



The state of North Carolina is home to some of the most spectacular barrier islands in the world. These features are constantly shifting, impacted by waves, tides, and wind. Studies of the Outer Banks, North Carolina have resulted in varied results, but a detailed analysis of the barrier system as a whole is lacking. Using historic topographic surveys (T-sheets) from the 19th, the positions of various barrier segments were analyzed in relation to modern imagery.

Changes in area, width, and center line locations were evaluated over the past 150 years. In total, 74 percent of modern transects have decreased in area. Total reductions in size were 130 km2 for the study period. Mean centerlines as a function of migration showed that 53 percent of segments were demonstrating directional movement away from the ocean. The average movement towards the bay between modern and historic centerlines was 8 meters. Thusly, barrier islands in North Carolina are demonstrating both decreases in total area and directional movement inland in response to sea level rise.





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