Publication Details

This article was originally published as Bryant, EA, Storminess and high tide beach change, Stanwell Park, Australia 1943-1978, Marine Geology, 79(3), 1988, 171-187. The original article is available here.


Coastal storms have been considered significant agents in transporting sediment, modifying morphology and causing recent beach erosion. Along the New South Wales coast, the concomitance of storms, warmer sea surface temperatures and poleward movement of the Hadley cell was linked to beach erosion on Stanwell Park beach between 1943 and 1978. This result was defined using an accurately constructed compilation of coastal storms and a precisely measured time series of high tide positions taken from 105 oblique photographs. The two data sets are amongst the best of their kind in the world. Indices of storm magnitude, representing cumulative significant wave height, were constructed at quarterly intervals and for the year prior to each photograph. The quarterly and cumulative storm indices explain 9.9% and 16.6% respectively, of the high tide variance at Stanwell Park. Each unit increase in the latter index, equivalent to an additional 1 m in storm wave height, shifts the high tide position shoreward by 0.47 m. This is equivalent to the effect produced by a 1 cm rise in sea level. While storminess is a crucial variable controlling high tide position on this beach, its role cannot be separated easily from that produced by rainfall, sea levels, sea surface temperatures, and atmospheric circulation along the East Australian coast and across the Pacific Ocean. Over 40% of the high tide data variance on Stanwell Park beach can be accounted for, in decreasing order of importance, by rainfall, storminess, tropical Pacific Ocean air circulation and sea level. These results have implications for other beaches in that single factors such as increased storminess or rising sea levels may not necessarily be the best factors for explaining recent worldwide beach erosion.



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