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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 01 Oct 2018

Research article | 01 Oct 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Environmental signal shredding on sandy coastlines

Eli D. Lazarus1, Mitchell D. Harley2, Chris E. Blenkinsopp3, and Ian L. Turner2 Eli D. Lazarus et al.
  • 1Environmental Dynamics Lab, School of Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  • 2Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW, Australia
  • 3Research Unit for Water, Environment and Infrastructure Resilience (WEIR), University of Bath, Bath, UK

Abstract. How storm events contribute to long-term shoreline change over decades to centuries remains an open question in coastal research. Sand and gravel coasts exhibit remarkable resilience to event-driven disturbances, and, in settings where sea level is rising, shorelines retain almost no detailed information about their own past positions. Here, we use a detailed, multi-decadal observational record of shoreline position to demonstrate quantitative indications of morphodynamic turbulence – signal shredding – in a sandy beach system. We find that, much like other dynamic sedimentary systems, processes of sediment transport that affect shoreline position at relatively short time-scales obscure or erase physical evidence of external forcing. This suggests that large forcing events like major coastal storms, even when their effects are recorded, may convey less about the dynamics of long-term shoreline change – and vice versa – than coastal researchers might wish.

Eli D. Lazarus et al.
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Eli D. Lazarus et al.
Eli D. Lazarus et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
A single storm event can change the shape of a sandy beach dramatically – but beaches also exhibit a remarkable ability to recover. So how important are storm-driven changes to a beach in the long term? This question affects predictions of future shoreline change. Here we explore signal shredding – when sediment transport erases any signature of outside driving forces. Our results suggest that major storm impacts tell us little about long-term shoreline change, and vice versa.
A single storm event can change the shape of a sandy beach dramatically – but beaches also...