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Rip currents, mega-cusps, and eroding dunes

January 1, 2007

Dune erosion is shown to occur at the embayment of beach mega-cusps O(200 m alongshore) that are associated with rip currents. The beach is the narrowest at the embayment of the mega-cusps allowing the swash of large storm waves coincident with high tides to reach the toe of the dune, to undercut the dune and to cause dune erosion. Field measurements of dune, beach, and rip current morphology are acquired along an 18 km shoreline in southern Monterey Bay, California. This section of the bay consists of a sandy shoreline backed by extensive dunes, rising to heights exceeding 40 m. There is a large increase in wave height going from small wave heights in the shadow of a headland, to the center of the bay where convergence of waves owing to refraction over the Monterey Bay submarine canyon results in larger wave heights. The large alongshore gradient in wave height results in a concomitant alongshore gradient in morphodynamic scale. The strongly refracted waves and narrow bay aperture result in near normal wave incidence, resulting in well-developed, persistent rip currents along the entire shoreline.

The alongshore variations of the cuspate shoreline are found significantly correlated with the alongshore variations in rip spacing at 95% confidence. The alongshore variations of the volume of dune erosion are found significantly correlated with alongshore variations of the cuspate shoreline at 95% confidence. Therefore, it is concluded the mega-cusps are associated with rip currents and that the location of dune erosion is associated with the embayment of the mega-cusp.

Publication Year 2007
Title Rip currents, mega-cusps, and eroding dunes
DOI 10.1016/j.margeo.2007.02.018
Authors E.B. Thornton, J. MacMahan, A. H. Sallenger
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine Geology
Index ID 70030171
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coastal and Marine Geology Program