Dr. Charles Flagg took a flight over the Breach at Old Inlet on February 28, 2015 and had the following to report:
After nearly two months of snow, high winds, frozen hanger doors and recalcitrant engines, I finally got a chance for another over flight Saturday afternoon. Conditions were good with low winds, lots of sun, and low tide. The photo mosaic from the flight is attached.
The results are quite interesting. First you will notice that all the flood delta islands were outlined by ice and snow. And there are a lot of them. The fact that there was ice and snow around the edges indicates that these islands project above the normal high water marks. So these are becoming quite permanent features and they extend over most of the flood delta, almost to John Boyle Island. Another interesting result is what has happened in the area of the west channel. In the late December photo-mosaic, which was also obtained during low tide, the spit had almost been erased with the remnant of the spit stranded between a fairly open west channel and channel past Pelican Island. In the intervening two months the spit has grown, the west channel is now much more sinuous, the channel near Pelican Island is smaller and the old remnant of the spit has connected with the sand islands to the west. There is now a quite substantial island north of the west channel and west of the main channel that may survive the winter storms. It will be interesting to see if this island grows to the point where it finally squeezes off the west channel permanently. Things would then look rather like the remnants of the original Old Inlet to the west.
There have also been changes along the south shore of Fire Island to the west of the breach. In late December there was a shoal at the edge of the breach that extended south a couple hundred meters. This seems to be mostly gone now. There was also rather prominent scouring of the shore to the west of this shoal. This also seems to be reduced two months later although the snow somewhat obscures the picture.
I have also posted a couple of oblique photos from the flight on the GSB Project website which give a better idea of the extent of sand islands. The photos also show the influence of the warm ocean water in Bellport Bay which has markedly reduced the ice coverage we would normally expect after this winter’s extended cold period. Except for a couple of open spots, the ice covers the entire Great South Bay to the west as far as I could see. The only exception is this area in Bellport Bay.
The SeaCat sensor at the Bellport dock has been reporting salinities that stayed around 30 psu since mid-January indicating the continued exchange with the ocean and lack of fresh water storm flow from the creeks. All the fresh water is still bound up in snow and ice so we should expect noticeably fresher conditions once the spring thaw finally sets in. And despite the recent particularly cold period, the temperatures at the dock have risen a couple of degrees in the past 10 days reflecting offshore changes.
Mark Lang has assembled all the geo-referenced photo mosaics into a kml file that can be viewed using Google Earth. By clicking between images and using the fade in-out button you can clearly see how the inlet is changing with time. An offline version of the KML file is available as KMZ.