Coastal Morphology

Coastal morphology is the study of natural processes ongoing at the shoreline and of the impact due to human interventions within the coastal zone. The field involves aspects of civil engineering, physical geography, nearshore oceanography and marine geology, often directed at combating erosion of coasts or providing navigational access.

The group’s research and education is concerned with coastal hydrodynamics (waves, tides and storm surges and induced currents), coastal sediment transport and coastal morphology and morphodynamics.

The ongoing rise in the relative sea level due to the glacial melting since the last ice age and now perhaps accelerated by the Greenhouse Effect creates a pervasive mechanism for shoreline retreat. Numerous devices have been devised to stop the erosion process. These can be divided into two basic types: hard and soft structures. Hard structures have been the traditional tool of the coastal engineer. These include groins (structures oriented perpendicular to the shoreline to slow the transport of sand along a shoreline), jetties (placed at inlets to keep sand from the navigational channel, breakwaters (to reduce wave action in harbours), and sea walls (to prevent the erosion of the upland). The group’s focus is on the behaviour of dynamic breakwaters. Soft structures are those that are more natural. The primary example is beach nourishment, which is the placement of sand on an eroding beach. Nourishment is a short-term measure as it does not fix the cause of the erosion; however, it is the only method that involves adding sand to the coastal system. The second innovation in nourishment after the innovative introduction of shoreface nourishments in the mid 1990’s is the Sand Motor on the Dutch coast created in 2011. Two large research projects with national and international collaboration are central in our present research.