DISCUSSION: In the wake of what is now a departing Tropical Storm Chris after formally being Hurricane Chris over the past 24 hours or so, there still do remain one or two concerns along north-south oriented beaches along the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast United States. Although it would now seem to appear that the primary threat this latest offshore tropical cyclone is now well offshore, there is still a very legitimate coastal concern or two which is on the mind of many. This is the threat of both rip currents as well as mild-to-moderate coastal beach erosion. Even when a hurricane or tropical storm is tens to hundreds of miles offshore from a given coastline, there is always a legitimate threat for there to be a prominent and persistent ocean swell and wave action along the chance even far away from the storm.
This is a result of the fact that closer to the storm’s immediate proximity there are much larger waves which are generated by the stronger wind’s much closer to the storm’s center of circulation. Hence, as these larger waves continue to move away from the center of what is now (as of this evening) Tropical Storm Chris, they will gradually begin to lose some energy and magnitude with increasing distance from Chris, but not nearly enough to eliminate all the potential and kinetic energy from these incoming waves. To clarify, potential energy with wave action is referring to the net amount of energy which may end up having the ability to reach a given coastline. On the flip side, kinetic energy with wave action refers to the net amount of energy which does ultimately reach a given coastline during some given period. Further, such wave action reaching a given coastline can also induce substantial amounts of regional coastal beach erosion. This a result of the unrelenting wave action acting to quite literally “tear up” coastlines and remove a lot of sand from both parts of the inner coastal shelf, beaches, and critical protective sand dunes which help to more effectively protect coastal communities.
Lastly, tropical storms and/or hurricanes can also induce what are most commonly referred to as rip currents along coastal beaches normal to the axis of the incoming wave action. Rip currents occur as a result of strong incoming wave action racing back out to sea and creating locally strong undertows in the vicinity of the outgoing ocean water from the aforementioned incoming wave action. This is visually reflected the graphic attached above courtesy of the NOAA National Weather Service network.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz