A third of sand to restore Jersey Shore beach washes away ahead of Memorial Day amid rising erosion

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The storm that dropped rain along the US northeast over the weekend also did a number on southern New Jersey beaches right before the shore will welcome summer visitors.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that one-third of the sand set for replenishing the beach in North Wildwood, a coastal town near the very southern tip of the state, washed away over the weekend.

Coastal towns traditionally see Memorial Day weekend, which falls at the end of May, as the start of the summer beach season.

South Jersey beaches have seen dramatic changes over the past few decades due to erosion as a result of wave action, development and sea level rise, according to Nasa.

North Wildwood sits at the northern end of one of the barrier islands lining the Jersey shore. Due to the shape of the coastline and the movement of waves, sand moves southward along this stretch of the coast — pushing sand from North Wildwood onto the beaches of its southern neighbours, Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.

Yet much of the sand collected by North Wildwood to build back its beach washed away over the weekend, the Inquirer reports.

In addition to wave action, Nasa also noted that development around the tidal marshes during the 20th century changed water flow patterns around the southern tip of New Jersey where these towns are located.

As a result, towns like Wildwood have plenty of sand while other beaches in Cape May and North Wildwood are often devoid of sand. Plenty of sand gets shipped out of Wildwood back to North Wildwood every year, NASA says, to try and even out the coastline.

In addition to yearly rebuilding, the area also has a planned “beach nourishment” project with the federal government that could offer longer-term support against erosion, scheduled to complete initial construction next year.

Other beaches along the Jersey Shore, also reported erosion from the weekend’s winter storm, including Ocean City and Stone Harbor.

Coastal issues in New Jersey are expected to get worse in the coming decades as the climate crisis pushes sea levels higher. Many of these towns sit on flat barrier islands mere feet above sea level — and as the oceans rise over the next century, these areas will face an increased threat from flooding and even potentially inundation.

Nasa reports that sea level in New Jersey is expected to rise by anywhere from 0.69 metres (2.3 ft) to 1.23 metres (4 ft) by the end of the century. At 1.23 metres, much of North Wildwood will likely be underwater.

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