Headlands and bays
Headlands and bays are two related features of the coastal environment.

Geology and geography

Headlands and bays are often found on the same coastline. A bay is surrounded by land on three sides, whereas a headland is surrounded by water on three sides. Headlands are characterized by high, breaking waves, rocky shores, intense erosion, and steep sea cliffs. Bays generally have less wave (and often wind) activity than the water outside the bay, and typically have sandy beaches. Headlands and bays form on discordant coastline
Discordant coastline
A discordant coastline occurs where bands of differing rock type run perpendicular to the coast.The differing resistance to erosion leads to the formation of headlands and bays...

s, where bands of rock of alternating resistance run perpendicular to the coast. Bays form where weak (less resistant) rocks (such as 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...

s and clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

s) are eroded, leaving bands of stronger (more resistant) rocks (such as chalk
Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores....

, 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....

, granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

) forming a headland, or peninsula
A peninsula is a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland. In many Germanic and Celtic languages and also in Baltic, Slavic and Hungarian, peninsulas are called "half-islands"....

. This difference in the rate of erosion is caused by differential erosion. Refraction of waves occurs on headlands concentrating wave energy on them, so many other landforms, such as caves, 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...

es and stacks
Stack (geology)
A stack is a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, isolated by erosion. Stacks are formed through processes of coastal geomorphology, which are entirely natural. Time, wind and water are the only factors involved in the...

, form on headlands. Wave energy is directed at right angles to the wave crest and lines drawn at right angles to the wave crest (orthogonals) represent the direction of energy expenditure. Orthogonals converge on headlands and diverge in bays which concentrates wave energy on the headlands and dissipating wave energy in the bays. In the formation of sea cliffs, wave erosion undercuts the slopes at the shoreline and they retreat landward. This increases the shear stress in the cliff-forming material and accelerates mass movement. The debris from these landslides collects at the base of the cliff and are also removed by the waves, usually during storms where wave energy is greatest. This debris provides sediment, transported through longshore current for the nearby bay. Joints in the headlands are eroded back to form caves which erode further to form arches. These gaps eventually collapse and leave tall stacks at the ends of the headlands. Eventually these too are eroded by the waves. Wave refraction disperses wave energy through the bay, and along with the sheltering effect of the headlands this protects bays from storms. This effect means that the waves reaching the shore in a bay are weaker than the waves reaching the headland and the bay is thus a safer place for water activities like surfing or swimming. Through the deposition of sediment within the bay and the erosion of the headlands, coastlines eventually straighten out then start the same process all over again

Beach stability

Beaches are dynamic geologic features that can fluctuate between advancement and retreat of sediment. The natural agents of fluctuation include waves, tides, currents, and winds. Man-made elements such as the interruption of sediment supply, such as a dam, and withdrawal of fluid can also affect beach stabilization. A headland bay beach can be classified as being in three different states of sedimentation. Static equilibrium refers to a beach that is stable and does not experience littoral drift or sediment deposition or erosion. Waves generally diffract around the headland(s) and near the beach when the beach is in a state of static equilibrium. Dynamic equilibrium occurs when the beach sediments are deposited and eroded at approximately equal rates. Beaches that have dynamic equilibrium are usually near a river that supplies sediment and would otherwise erode away without the river supply. Unstable beaches are usually off the ocean have little land extending into it.

External links

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