Napatree Point, an isolated barrier in southern Rhode Island, provides a case study of barrier spit migration via storm driven overwash and washover fan migration. Documented shoreline changes using historical surveys and vertical aerial photographs show that the barrier had little in the way of net change in position between 1883 and 1939, including the impact of the 1938 hurricane. The barrier retreated rapidly between 1945 and 1975, driven by both tropical and extra-tropical storms. The shoreline position has been largely static since 1975. The removal of the foredune during the 1938 hurricane facilitated landward shoreline migration in subsequent lower intensity storms. Dune recovery following the 1962 Ash Wednesday storm has been allowed due to limited overwash and barrier migration over the last several decades. Shoreline change rates during the period from 1945–1975 were more than double the rate of shoreline change between 1939 and 2014 and triple the rate between 1883 and 2014, exceeding the positional uncertainty of these shoreline pairs. The long-term shoreline change rates used to calculate coastal setbacks in Rhode Island likely underestimate the potential for rapid shoreline retreat over shorter time periods, particularly in a cluster of storm activity. While sea-level rise has increased since 1975, the barrier has not migrated, highlighting the importance of storms in barrier migration.
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