USGS Erosion Simulation Video

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Detailed Description

This video demonstrates a simulation of how storms can impact sandy coastlines through processes such as erosion. This demonstration is conducted at outreach events by scientists at the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center. The activity can also be re-created at home or in the classroom. Learn more about USGS hurricane impact research.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:01:53

Location Taken: St. Petersburg, FL, US

Video Credits

Video taken by Chris Reich, Deputy Director, USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center Aerial photographs taken by Karen Morgan, retired USGS employee Additional photographs provided by Hilary Stockdon, Science Advisor, Coastal and Marine Hazards and Resources Program


This simulation shows how hurricane-force winds can generate waves that cause erosion and damaging impacts to coastal landscapes.

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey use a table-sized water bath to represent the ocean.

Sand is placed on one end of the water bath to create a mainland, and an additional strip of sand is created just offshore of this mainland to represent a barrier island, with the water between them representing a bay.

Small replicas of stilt houses and ground-level houses are placed along the barrier island and the mainland shoreline.

A fan is turned on at the other end of the water bath to represent an incoming storm.

The fan speed is increased to represent strengthening winds, which generate waves.

These waves hit the base of the dunes on the island, which is called collision.

The waves can sometimes make it over the top of the dunes of the island, which is called overwash.

Collision and overwash can both cause sand to be taken off the beach in a process called erosion.

Sometimes storm waves are high enough to completely submerge the island, which can transport sand really far into the bay - this is called inundation.

The processes of collision, overwash, and inundation cause erosion that can drastically change coastal environments,

and lead to devastating effects to coastal communities, including the destruction of homes and roads.

The USGS studies these processes to better predict when and where these impacts could occur so we can be better prepared for storms.