Disappearing beaches
Grim examples
Role of beaches
Solving beach erosion?
Global warming and sea levels

Update: Flooded Island


Check out these changing cliff positions.

Photo courtesy NOAA.


This sandy trophy home, like too many beachside houses, is about to get washed by the waves. Enormous sand castle made by Paul Baumgart, Paul Powers and Jessica Baumgart.

Photo courtesy Jessica Baumgart.


A noreaster washed away Assateague Island, Md., in February, 1998, as shown in these before and after computer graphics. (Current image shows the pre-storm beach on September 15, 1997. Put the mouse over the image to see the post-storm situation on February 10, 1998.)

Photo courtesy NOAA.


A widespread problem
How extensive is the coastal erosion problem? Consider:

  • During a 1992 storm, the Atlantic Ocean broke through a barrier island near Westhampton, N.Y., destroying about 190 of the 246 homes on the island. The breakthrough was blamed on structures designed to build up beaches that blocked the flow of sand along the shore. These so-called groins build up some beaches while depriving others of their essential sand supply.
a changing coastline
  • Seventy-two percent of coastal towns in Massachusetts are "exhibiting a long-term erosive trend," says O'Connell.
  • Beaches in Southern California are losing vast amounts of sand, and some are down to bare rock. The beach sand came from river sediment, but damming and water removals have impeded that supply. One drastic solution, the removal of Matilija dam on the Ventura River, is under consideration, with twin goals of restoring trout to the ocean, and sand to the beaches around Santa Barbara. (see "Trickle of Support... " in the bibliography).

    big sandcastle

  • In Britain, the Observer magazine described, under the headline "Incredible Shrinking Britain," cliffside houses tumbling into the English Channel. (see "This Was the Garden... " in the bibliography).
  • In Galveston, Texas, more than 140 property owners entered legal limbo when beach erosion moved the public beach (defined as bare sand without vegetation) to their property. (see "Future of Beach Homes... " in the bibliography).

Unhand that pail and shovel!
We'll agree to quell this unsettling litany if you'll agree to read about drastically disappearing beaches. What is the role of global warming? Do any cures actually work?

And are beaches only for the pail-and-shovel crowd, or do they serve another purpose?

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The Why Files
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