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St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center > Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms

Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms

graph showing beach erosion in Currituck, North Carolina Figure 1. Beach erosion in Currituck, NC resulting from Hurricane Isabels's 2003 landfall. The elevation of the beach near the shoreline decreased ~1.5 m and the shoreline retreated ~15 m. [larger version]
oceanfront home in jeopardy of collapse Figure 2. Hurricane Dennis battered the Outer Banks of North Carolina for many days during its 1999 landfall. Large waves caused considerable beach erosion, putting some of the oceanfront homes in this small community in jeopardy of collapse. [larger version]

Storm-Induced Coastal Change

Beach Erosion

Beach erosion occurs when waves and currents remove sand from the beach system. The loss of sand causes the beach to become narrower and lower in elevation (Figure 1). Storm waves carry the sand offshore, depositing and storing the sediment in large sandbars. In weeks and months following the storm, the sand is returned to the beach by calm-weather waves. Because many states rely on beach-related tourism as a major source of revenue, beach erosion has become a serious concern for coastal counties throughout the United States. Beach erosion also threatens coastal properties and infrastructure, such as roads, homes, and businesses. A series of storms can cause significant retreat of the shoreline, leaving coastal property more vulnerable to future storms (Figure 2).

return to Coastal Change Overview | continue to Dune Erosion


St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center > Coastal Change Hazards: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms

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