Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (Honours): Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience




Amy Dougherty


Climate change induced sea-level rise will result in storm erosion becoming the primary driver of long-term coastal recession. Australia is particularly vulnerable, as 80% of the population lives on the coastline (most concentrated in the southeast). Recent storm events in 2013 and 2016 resulted in extensive erosion and property damage in NSW but pales in comparison to the severe impact of a series of high-energy events in the 1970s. Longterm beach profiles exist at only two sites and of these 40-year datasets, only one captures data prior to the 1970s. This study aims to extend this spatially and temporally limited data by using aerial photographs dating back to the 1970s as well as Light Detection and Ranging data collected during 2013. The study sites, Wollongong South, Shellharbour South, Bulli (Sandon), Moruya (Bengello) and Callala, were chosen to cover a range of beach-barrier types, also taking into account the availability of historical data. The aim of this project is to circumvent this lack of high-resolution, historical data by assessing the impact of storm events on sandy beaches along the NSW coastline using remote sensing and GIS. It also investigates the primary coastal processes that affect beach stormresponse, and the way in which we can monitor coastal change. While this analysis has started to reveal some information about the impacts of the 1970s storms on NSW’s beaches, errors and limitations associated with this remote sensing method mean that the results are not sufficiently accurate enough to draw definitive conclusions without the use of GPR. However, it has suggested that the erosive potential of NSW’s current definitive design 1-in 100-year storm event may be a severe underestimate, increasing the risk to human life and coastal infrastructure during the next storm of this magnitude. This project has begun to uncover some of the mystery behind the impacts of this devastating series of storms in the 1970s, but perhaps more importantly, highlights the unreliable nature of depending solely on historical records for projecting future coastal change.

FoR codes (2008)

040601 Geomorphology and Regolith and Landscape Evolution



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.