Fiona: Satellite imagery captures the impact on the PEI . coastline

When Hurricane Fiona made landfall over the weekend as a post-tropical storm, Prince Edward Island and one of its most important ecosystems suffered significant damage as the storm caused erosion on the coast of the United States. conscious.

Photo from Canadian Space Agency shows the extent of the storm’s impact as it sweeps across the province. Citizen scientists on the ground have also captured its impact on the dunes of national parks, including Dalvay, Brackley and Cavendish Beach.

Chris Houser, a professor of science at the University of Windsor, said the damage to the dunes in Dalvay National Park was unlike anything seen before.

“Basically the dune was cut in half,” Houser told in a phone interview Tuesday.

“It loses a large portion of its volume, it will eventually collapse, lose a lot of its height, and most of the sediment has drifted offshore with some going behind the barrier through the canals. small.”

Meteorologists have described Fiona as one of the most impactful storms to make landfall in the Atlantic region as gusts reach over 100 km/h with some areas in PEI approaching 150 km/h. Although the main strength of the storm was its sustained strength, as strong winds created a continuous storm surge that lasted for hours.

Houser said initial reports from his team of citizen scientists with the Parks Canada Coastie Initiative showed that storm surges had swept nearly 10 meters off the dunes and about 30 cubic meters above the sand dunes. every meter of sand lost from the beach. Although the dunes regenerate spontaneously, it may take years for the dunes to recover due to Fiona’s forces.

“It’s going to have an impact on that system over the next few years because it could almost take 10 years for that system to fully recover,” he said.


Jennifer Stewart from Parks Canada PEI says the dunes are an important ecosystem for the province.

“During Hurricane Dorian, in 2019, we lost an average of two meters of coastline across PEI National Park and so we are used to having hurricanes in this area, but I have never seen this level of erosion. worn out before,” Stewart told in a phone interview on Tuesday.

The dunes can rebuild themselves in the spring when the beach vegetation begins to grow marram grass. This grass is essential in dune rebuilding because the grass captures the sand to grow new dunes, spreading under the sand surface forming roots forming nets that hold the sand in place.

“That is the protection we will have against the forces of the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” she said. “So without that dune there, it makes us a little bit more vulnerable to winter storms and general weather.”

However, with the effects of climate change increasing every year, ecosystems like sand dunes may not be able to recover fast enough before the next extreme weather events cause more damage.

With melting ice caps causing sea levels to rise, Houser said storms like Fiona will only increase over time and further delay the recovery of these ecosystems. Additionally, warmer winters that fail to create ice on our lakes could cause further damage to dunes as regular ice would cause them to break apart from consistent waves.

“I think the most important piece here is recovery. Erosion is always a dramatic event and we focus on that, but the most important thing that will determine how the system will change is the recovery, which will take years to a decade.” he said.

Houser says it’s more important than ever for citizen scientists and environmentalists to continue to collect photos and data on the impact of these extreme weather events. learn more about ways to protect these ecosystems.

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