Changes on the Cape Cod Coastline

Beaches are dynamic, living landscapes, and the prime example of beach evolution is the coastal barrier. These strips of land are usually long and narrow, and run parallel to the mainland. Sometimes they are islands and other times they are connected to land at one end, a feature dubbed a “spit.” Scientists estimate that there are more than 2,100 barriers fronting nearly 10 percent of the world’s continental shorelines. In the United States, barrier spits and beaches line up along nearly a quarter of the coast.

These sandy barriers are constantly raised up, shifted, and torn down by the natural ebb and flow of waves, currents, winds, and tides. Hooks form, inlets open and close, and beaches slowly march across their back bays and lagoons toward the mainland. This process allows them to naturally move ever upwards as sea levels rise.

On the southeastern elbow of Cape Cod, where the New England coast reaches out into the cold and choppy North Atlantic, this natural progression has been taking place in full view of satellites for more than 30 years. The images above were acquired by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 (top) and the Thematic Mapper on Landsat 5 (bottom). They show the shape of the coast off of Chatham, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1984, and July 30, 2013. Turn on the image comparison tool for an easier view of the changes. Visit our longer World of Change time series to see the years in between.

The changes to the Nauset-Monomoy barrier system in this part of Cape Cod are sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic. In 1984, an unbroken barrier spit shielded the Atlantic-facing coast of Chatham and its harbor. South of the mainland, North and South Monomoy Islands stood apart from each other and from the coast. Over the span of 30 years, three major breaches opened in the system and the barrier islands connected to the coastline and to each other.

(via Image of the Day)


Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts


Lighthouse beach. Cape Cod, MA.


Sunset in Chatham today

Cape Cod Pilot Whale Stranding (by Chris Seufert)

A pilot whale stranded Monday afternoon on Hardings Beach in Chatham, Cape Cod. The Cape Cod Stranding Network and the International Fund for Animal Welfare were called in to provide basic medical support until a bulldozer and flatbed truck could arrive. Moist blankets kept the marine mammal wet on the frigid winter beach until 5:30 when the trucks arrived to begin the process of transportation to a facility where more substantial medical care could be provided.


Stage Harbor.


Chatham in winter

(via barnabydavis-deactivated2014091)

Cape Cod : Ridgevale Beach Bridge in Winter (by Chris Seufert)

Lighthouse Beach (by lakewentworth)


Downtown Chatham, Cape Cod in Winter. by Chris Seufert on Flickr.


Chatham, Cape Cod, MA 

Photograph taken by:

Chatham Pier Fish Market (by chrismar)

MyDailyView_09_May_2013 (by carynseifer)