Unraveling the dynamics that scale cross-shore headland relief on rocky coastlines: 2. Model predictions and initial tests

Journal Article (Journal Article)

We explore the behavior of a theoretical model of cross-shore headland relief caused by alongshore differences in lithology and rock strength on rocky coastlines. Results address the question of why some rocky coasts exhibit frequent headland and embayment sequences while others evolve to a flat, smooth, and sandy configuration. Main model predictions are that cross-shore headland amplitude is inversely proportional to beach sediment supply and the strength of wave energy convergence and divergence along the headland and bay, and proportional to the alongshore embayment length (or distance between headlands) and the difference between headland and bay rock strength. The coastline's initial physical properties (sea cliff height, composition, etc.) largely determine whether headlands will be persistent or transient landscape features. Model timescales over which the headland and bay reach steady state amplitude, or disappear to a flat coastline, range from 120 to 175, 000 years depending on how close the initial amplitude is to steady state. In many cases, the coastline must evolve over several sea level highstands in order to reach equilibrium. A characteristic timescale (independent of initial conditions) shows that the coastline evolves most rapidly when: wave focusing is stronger; sea cliff rock is weaker or retreats faster in a given wave climate; the sea cliff retreat rate decreases rapidly as a function of beach width (i.e., the beach is very effective at dampening wave energy); and the coastline is sediment rich. Comparisons to nature suggest that our model is qualitatively capturing general rocky coastline dynamics and that modeled headland amplitudes are consistent with observed amplitudes. © 2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Limber, PW; Murray, AB

Published Date

  • January 1, 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 119 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 874 - 891

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2169-9011

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/2013JF002978

Citation Source

  • Scopus