Coastal erosion
Overview
 
Coastal erosion is the wearing away of land and the removal of beach
Beach
A beach is a geological landform along the shoreline of an ocean, sea, lake or river. It usually consists of loose particles which are often composed of rock, such as sand, gravel, shingle, pebbles or cobblestones...

 or dune
Dune
In physical geography, a dune is a hill of sand built by wind. Dunes occur in different forms and sizes, formed by interaction with the wind. Most kinds of dunes are longer on the windward side where the sand is pushed up the dune and have a shorter "slip face" in the lee of the wind...

 sediment
Sediment
Sediment is naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of fluids such as wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity acting on the particle itself....

s by wave
Wave
In physics, a wave is a disturbance that travels through space and time, accompanied by the transfer of energy.Waves travel and the wave motion transfers energy from one point to another, often with no permanent displacement of the particles of the medium—that is, with little or no associated mass...

 action, tidal currents
Tide
Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the moon and the sun and the rotation of the Earth....

, wave currents, or drainage (see also beach evolution
Beach evolution
The shoreline is where the land meets the sea and it is continually changing. Over the long term, the water is eroding the land. Beaches represent a special case, in that they exist where sand accumulated from the same processes that strip away rocky and sedmientary material. I.e., they can grow as...

). Waves, generated by storms, wind, or fast moving motor craft, cause coastal erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

, which may take the form of long-term losses of sediment and rocks
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

, or merely the temporary redistribution of coastal sediments; erosion in one location may result in accretion nearby.
Encyclopedia
Coastal erosion is the wearing away of land and the removal of beach
Beach
A beach is a geological landform along the shoreline of an ocean, sea, lake or river. It usually consists of loose particles which are often composed of rock, such as sand, gravel, shingle, pebbles or cobblestones...

 or dune
Dune
In physical geography, a dune is a hill of sand built by wind. Dunes occur in different forms and sizes, formed by interaction with the wind. Most kinds of dunes are longer on the windward side where the sand is pushed up the dune and have a shorter "slip face" in the lee of the wind...

 sediment
Sediment
Sediment is naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of fluids such as wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity acting on the particle itself....

s by wave
Wave
In physics, a wave is a disturbance that travels through space and time, accompanied by the transfer of energy.Waves travel and the wave motion transfers energy from one point to another, often with no permanent displacement of the particles of the medium—that is, with little or no associated mass...

 action, tidal currents
Tide
Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the moon and the sun and the rotation of the Earth....

, wave currents, or drainage (see also beach evolution
Beach evolution
The shoreline is where the land meets the sea and it is continually changing. Over the long term, the water is eroding the land. Beaches represent a special case, in that they exist where sand accumulated from the same processes that strip away rocky and sedmientary material. I.e., they can grow as...

). Waves, generated by storms, wind, or fast moving motor craft, cause coastal erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

, which may take the form of long-term losses of sediment and rocks
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

, or merely the temporary redistribution of coastal sediments; erosion in one location may result in accretion nearby. The study of erosion and sediment redistribution is called 'coastal morphodynamics'. It may be caused by hydraulic action, abrasion
Abrasion (geology)
Abrasion is the mechanical scraping of a rock surface by friction between rocks and moving particles during their transport by wind, glacier, waves, gravity, running water or erosion. After friction, the moving particles dislodge loose and weak debris from the side of the rock...

, impact and corrosion
Corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

.

On non-rocky coasts, coastal erosion results in dramatic (or non-dramatic) rock formations in areas where the coastline contains rock layers or fracture zones with varying resistance to erosion. Softer areas become eroded much faster than harder ones, which typically result in landforms such as tunnel
Tunnel
A tunnel is an underground passageway, completely enclosed except for openings for egress, commonly at each end.A tunnel may be for foot or vehicular road traffic, for rail traffic, or for a canal. Some tunnels are aqueducts to supply water for consumption or for hydroelectric stations or are sewers...

s, bridge
Bridge
A bridge is a structure built to span physical obstacles such as a body of water, valley, or road, for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle...

s, column
Column
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

s, and pillar
Column
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

s.

Examples

An example of coastline erosion is in north Wales where over years of the sea beating at the cliffs the houses on top have begun collapsing into the sea. With some of them you can even see inside as the entire backs of some of the houses have come off and have been launched over the clifftop that has been torn through by the ferocious sea.

Dunwich
Dunwich
Dunwich is a small town in Suffolk, England, within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB.Dunwich was the capital of East Anglia 1500 years ago but the harbour and most of the town have since disappeared due to coastal erosion. Its decline began in 1286 when a sea surge hit the East Anglian coast, and...

, the capital of the English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 medieval wool
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

 trade, disappeared over the period of a few centuries due to redistribution of sediment by waves. Human interference can also increase coastal erosion: Hallsands in Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

, England, was a coastal village that washed away overnight, an event possibly exacerbated by dredging of shingle
Slate
Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low-grade regional metamorphism. The result is a foliated rock in which the foliation may not correspond to the original sedimentary layering...

 in the bay
Bay
A bay is an area of water mostly surrounded by land. Bays generally have calmer waters than the surrounding sea, due to the surrounding land blocking some waves and often reducing winds. Bays also exist as an inlet in a lake or pond. A large bay may be called a gulf, a sea, a sound, or a bight...

 in front of it.

The California coast, which has soft cliffs of sedimentary rock and is heavily populated, regularly has incidents of housing damage as cliffs erode. Damage in Pacifica
Pacifica, California
Pacifica is a city in San Mateo County, California, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay.-Overview:The City of Pacifica is spread along a six mile stretch of the north central California coastal beach and hills, nestled in several small valleys spanning between...

 is shown at left. Devil's Slide, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara is the county seat of Santa Barbara County, California, United States. Situated on an east-west trending section of coastline, the longest such section on the West Coast of the United States, the city lies between the steeply-rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean...

 and Malibu are regularly affected.

The Holderness
Holderness
Holderness is an area of the East Riding of Yorkshire, on the east coast of England. An area of rich agricultural land, Holderness was marshland until it was drained in the Middle Ages. Topographically, Holderness has more in common with the Netherlands than other parts of Yorkshire...

 coastline on the east coast of England, just north of the Humber Estuary, is the fastest eroding coastline in Europe due to its soft clay cliffs and powerful waves. Groynes and other artificial measures to keep it under control has only accelerated the process further down the coast, because longshore drift
Longshore drift
Longshore drift consists of the transportation of sediments along a coast at an angle to the shoreline, which is dependent on prevailing wind direction, swash and backwash. This process occurs in the littoral zone, and in or within close proximity to the surf zone...

 starves the beaches of sand, leaving them more exposed. The White Cliffs of Dover
White cliffs of Dover
The White Cliffs of Dover are cliffs which form part of the British coastline facing the Strait of Dover and France. The cliffs are part of the North Downs formation. The cliff face, which reaches up to , owes its striking façade to its composition of chalk accentuated by streaks of black flint...

 have also been affected.

Hydraulic action

Hydraulic action occurs when waves striking a cliff
Cliff
In geography and geology, a cliff is a significant vertical, or near vertical, rock exposure. Cliffs are formed as erosion landforms due to the processes of erosion and weathering that produce them. Cliffs are common on coasts, in mountainous areas, escarpments and along rivers. Cliffs are usually...

 face compress air in cracks on the cliff face. This exerts pressure on the surrounding rock, and can progressively splinter and remove pieces. Over time, the cracks can grow, sometimes forming a cave
Cave
A cave or cavern is a natural underground space large enough for a human to enter. The term applies to natural cavities some part of which is in total darkness. The word cave also includes smaller spaces like rock shelters, sea caves, and grottos.Speleology is the science of exploration and study...

. The splinters fall to the sea bed where they are subjected to further wave action.

Attrition

Attrition
Attrition (weathering)
Attrition is a form of coastal or river erosion, when the bed load is eroded by itself and the bed. As rocks are transported downstream along a riverbed, the regular impacts between the grains themselves and between the grains and the bed cause them to be broken up into smaller fragments. This...

 occurs when waves causes loose pieces of rock debris (scree
Scree
Scree, also called talus, is a term given to an accumulation of broken rock fragments at the base of crags, mountain cliffs, or valley shoulders. Landforms associated with these materials are sometimes called scree slopes or talus piles...

) to collide with each other, grinding and chipping each other, progressively becoming smaller, smoother and rounder. Scree also collides with the base of the cliff face, chipping small pieces of rock from the cliff or have a corrasion
Corrasion
Corrasion is a geographical term for the process of mechanical erosion of a rock surface caused when materials are transported across it by running water, glaciers, wind, waves or gravitational movement downslope, for example, the wearing away of fine particles of rock on a river or seabed by a...

 (abrasion) effect, similar to sandpapering.

Corrasion and corrosion

Corrasion
Corrasion
Corrasion is a geographical term for the process of mechanical erosion of a rock surface caused when materials are transported across it by running water, glaciers, wind, waves or gravitational movement downslope, for example, the wearing away of fine particles of rock on a river or seabed by a...

 (abrasion) occurs when waves break on cliff faces and slowly erode it. As the sea pounds cliff faces it also uses the scree from other wave actions to batter and break off pieces of rock from higher up the cliff face which can be used for this same wave action and attrition.

Corrosion
Corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

 or solution/chemical weathering occurs when the sea's pH
PH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

 (anything below pH 7.0) corrodes rocks on a cliff face. Limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 cliff faces, which have a high pH, are particularly affected in this way. Wave action also increases the rate of reaction by removing the reacted material.

Primary factors

The ability of waves
WAVES
The WAVES were a World War II-era division of the U.S. Navy that consisted entirely of women. The name of this group is an acronym for "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service" ; the word "emergency" implied that the acceptance of women was due to the unusual circumstances of the war and...

 to cause erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

 of the cliff
Cliff
In geography and geology, a cliff is a significant vertical, or near vertical, rock exposure. Cliffs are formed as erosion landforms due to the processes of erosion and weathering that produce them. Cliffs are common on coasts, in mountainous areas, escarpments and along rivers. Cliffs are usually...

 face depends on many factors.

The hardness or ‘erodibility’ of sea-facing rocks is controlled by the rock
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 strength and the presence of fissures, fractures, and beds of non-cohesive materials such as silt
Silt
Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

 and fine sand
Sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

.

The rate at which cliff fall debris
Debris
Debris is rubble, wreckage, ruins, litter and discarded garbage/refuse/trash, scattered remains of something destroyed, or, in geology, large rock fragments left by a melting glacier etc. The singular form of debris is debris...

 is removed from the foreshore depends on the power of the waves crossing the beach
Beach
A beach is a geological landform along the shoreline of an ocean, sea, lake or river. It usually consists of loose particles which are often composed of rock, such as sand, gravel, shingle, pebbles or cobblestones...

. This energy must reach a critical level to remove material from the debris lobe. Debris lobes can be very persistent and can take many years to completely disappear.

Beaches dissipate wave energy on the foreshore and provide a measure of protection to the adjoining land.

The stability of the foreshore, or its resistance to lowering. Once stable, the foreshore should widen and become more effective at dissipating the wave energy, so that fewer and less powerful waves reach beyond it. The provision of updrift material coming onto the foreshore beneath the cliff helps ensure a stable beach.

The adjacent bathymetry
Bathymetry
Bathymetry is the study of underwater depth of lake or ocean floors. In other words, bathymetry is the underwater equivalent to hypsometry. The name comes from Greek βαθύς , "deep", and μέτρον , "measure"...

, or configuration of the seafloor, controls the wave energy arriving at the coast, and can have an important influence on the rate of cliff erosion. Shoals and bars offer protection from wave erosion by causing storm waves to break and dissipate their energy before reaching the shore. Given the dynamic nature of the seafloor, changes in the location of shoals and bars may cause the locus of beach or cliff erosion to change position along the shore.

Secondary factors

  • Weathering and transport slope processes
  • Slope hydrology
  • Vegetation
  • Cliff foot erosion
  • Cliff foot sediment accumulation
  • Resistance of cliff foot sediment to attrition and transport

See also

  • Beach nourishment
    Beach nourishment
    Beach nourishment— also referred to as beach replenishment—describes a process by which sediment lost through longshore drift or erosion is replaced from sources outside of the eroding beach...

  • Bioerosion
    Bioerosion
    Bioerosion describes the erosion of hard ocean substrates – and less often terrestrial substrates – by living organisms. Marine bioerosion can be caused by mollusks, polychaete worms, phoronids, sponges, crustaceans, echinoids, and fish; it can occur on coastlines, on coral reefs, and...

  • Blowhole
  • Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation
    Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation
    The Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation is a private, nonprofit organization that was created in 1971. At that time, the members of two regionally-based organizations, the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society and the New England Estuarine Research Society recognized the need for a third...

     (CERF)
  • Coastal sediment supply
    Coastal sediment supply
    Coastal sediment supply is the transport of sediment to the beach environment by both fluvial and aeolian transport. While aeolian transport plays a role in the overall sedimentary budget for the coastal environment, it is paled in comparison to the fluvial supply which makes up 95% of sediment...

  • Coastal and oceanic landforms
  • Coastal management
    Coastal management
    In some jurisdictions the terms sea defense and coastal protection are used to mean, respectively, defense against flooding and erosion...

  • Deposition (sediment)
  • Erosion
    Erosion
    Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

  • Longshore Drift
    Longshore drift
    Longshore drift consists of the transportation of sediments along a coast at an angle to the shoreline, which is dependent on prevailing wind direction, swash and backwash. This process occurs in the littoral zone, and in or within close proximity to the surf zone...

  • Marine terrace
    Marine terrace
    A marine terrace, coastal terrace, raised beach or perched coastline is a relatively flat, horizontal or gently inclined surface of marine origin, mostly an old abrasion platform which has been lifted out of the sphere of wave activity . Thus it lies above or under the current sea level, depending...

  • Modern recession of beaches
    Modern recession of beaches
    Important segments of low coasts are receding, losing sand and reducing the beaches' dimensions. This loss could occur very rapidly.From more to less natural causes :-Locations:-Atlantic coast:...

  • Natural arch
    Natural arch
    A natural arch or natural bridge is a natural geological formation where a rock arch forms, with an opening underneath. Most natural arches form as a narrow ridge, walled by cliffs, become narrower from erosion, with a softer rock stratum under the cliff-forming stratum gradually eroding out until...

  • Submersion
    Submersion (coastal management)
    Submersion is the sustainable cyclic portion of coastal erosion where coastal sediments move from the visible portion of a beach to the submerged nearshore region, and later return to the original visible portion of the beach...

  • Sand dune stabilization
    Sand dune stabilization
    Sand dunes are common features of shoreline and desert environments. Dunes provide habitat for highly specialized plants and animals, including rare and endangered species. They can protect beaches from erosion and recruit sand to eroded beaches. Dunes are threatened by human activity, both...

  • Coastal Development Hazards
    Coastal development hazards
    A coastal development hazard can be defined as the likelihood of an event or incident occurring multiplied by the seriousness of the event or incident if it occurred. The seriousness is controlled by how vulnerable the adversely affected party was to the hazard...



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