Saturday, November 04, 2006

All change at the beach

The beach outside has changed again. We've had really windy weather and heavy rain fall for several days now, although today it's sunny, calm and dry.

It seems odd to be standing in the sunshine, but surveying a transformed beach, a flooded river and a huge lake where, yesterday, there was a playing field, a road and a carpark!

I'm living on the coast, close to where a small river flows across the beach and into the sea. During the summer the area acts as a tourist attraction with families enjoying the beach, walking along the nature paths on the flood plain and paddling safely in the little river.

Today the combination of heavy rain, a high tide and a strong wind off the sea have combined to create extensive flooding that's closed the only road through the village but still attracted some tourists - this time to stand and stare at the waves pounding onto the beach and to feed the ducks swimming along the road and through the carpark.

With our modern coastal defences and coastal management we tend to be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that we have nature under control and can build close to beaches or on flood plains, and get away with it. This morning, however, shows that the forces of nature can still catch us out with ease.

I'm not surprised that the beach has changed, given the size and power of the waves striking it. Gale force winds off shore have whipped up powerful waves that are breaking strongly and removing material from the beach. The problem is that the flow of water down the beach (the backwash) is more powerful than the flow up the beach (the swash), leading to sand and pebbles being dragged out to sea. So much water is flowing down the beach that the backwash is 'tripping up' the waves as they try to roll up the beach. As a result they don't get a chance to push material back up the beach before the next lot of water floods back down and removes it again.

To learn more about the power of waves and how coastal defences work, try visiting the following pages.

Coastal Defences

Coastal Management

Waves and Beaches

The Geography Site


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