Response of a fringing reef coastline to the direct impact of a tropical cyclone

Michael Cuttler, Jeffrey Hansen, Ryan Lowe, Edwin Johannes Fokke Drost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Tropical cyclones generate extreme hazards along coastlines, often leading to losses of life and property. Although coral reefs exist in cyclone‐prone regions globally, few studies have measured the hydrodynamic conditions and morphological responses of reef‐fringed coastlines to tropical cyclones. Here, we examine the impact of Tropical Cyclone Olwyn on a section of Australia's largest fringing reef (Ningaloo Reef) using in situ wave and water level observations, topographic surveys, and numerical modeling. Despite forereef significant wave heights reaching 6 m and local winds of 140 km h−1, average beach volume change was only −3 m3 m−1. The results indicate that this erosion was due to locally generated wind waves within the lagoon rather than the offshore waves that were dissipated on the reef crest. A comparison of these volume changes to observations of tropical cyclone impacts along exposed sandy beaches quantitatively demonstrates the substantial coastal protection reefs can provide against extreme storms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalLimnology and Oceanography Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


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