Coastal Change and Conflict Revision Notes

A summary of the coasts topic for tomorrow's exam :)

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  • Created on: 12-06-11 16:07
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Changing Coasts
Geological structure and rock type have a major influence on coastal development and landforms.
Contrasts between a named soft rock coast and a named hard rock coast in terms of cliff
profiles, cliff features and erosional land forms.
Investigating concordant/discordant coasts (headlands/bays), and the influence of joints and
Marine processes, sub-aerial processes, mass movement and climate change are also important.
Investigating how wave action erodes cliffs, and how wave type influences beach profile; how
long shore drift forms characteristic landforms.
Investigating how sub-aerial processes of weathering and mass movement influence landforms,
and how rising sea levels and increased storm activity may affect coasts in the future.
Physical processes lead to coastal change and retreat, which threatens people and property and
generates conflicting views.
Examining an example of rapid coastal retreat, e.g. Holderness or the Dorset Coast to identify how
physical processes and causing coastal problems and threats.
Exploring the conflicting views of how the case study coast should be managed.
Coastal management options from traditional hard engineering to modern holistic approaches.
Investigating the costs and benefits of traditional coastal engineering structures.
Considering the costs/benefits of more radical approaches such as `do nothing' and `strategic
realignment' linked to Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and their sustainability.
Factors affecting the coastline
Rock type (reactivity, soft/hard)
Rock structure (joints + bedding planes)
Climate: precipitation, temperature (cracking)
Manmade protection + human activity (tourism)
Salt content of the sea
Shape of the coast
Gradient of the cliff
Climate change (rising sea levels)
Wind strength
Cliff Hard Rock Coast: Cornwall, SW UK Soft Rock Coast: Holderness, NE UK
Height Tall Short
Gradient Steep, 90° Shallow, 45°
Texture Jagged, hard Powder, soft
Shape Square, vertical Concave
Face of Cliff Lichen, moss, bedding planes and joints Bare clay, no vegetation
Foot of Cliff Big rocks and boulders Bare clay, sand, small pebbles
The hard rock is more resistant to erosion so it remains tall. This resistance also means that it remains
perpendicular to the ground since the waves erode it less at the cliff foot. The lack of erosion also
allows moss and lichen to survive since the rock on which they live is less changeable.
Factors that affect the size of waves
Wind strength
Wind duration
Fetch: the length of water over which a given wind has blown

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Feature Constructive Wave Destructive Wave
Season Summer Winter
Amplitude Smaller Larger
Wavelength Longer Shorter
Effect Deposits sand Erode sand
Swash/Backswash Stronger swash Stronger Backwash
Beaches Shallower Steeper
What's created? Beach berm Off shore bar
Coastal Erosion
Hydraulic action: Air can be trapped in joints and cracks on a cliff face. When a wave breaks, the
trapped air is compressed which weakens the cliff and causes erosion.
Abrasion: Bits of rock and sand in waves grind down cliff surfaces like sandpaper.…read more

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Reaction with water (hydrolysis): Exfoliation: hot climates, rock surfaces are repeatedly heated
hydrogen reacts with minerals in rock + cooled so surface layer expands + contracts (day and night)
Acidic rainwater (carbonation): so peels leaving rounded rocks and hills.
carbonic acid reacts with calcium Root Action: roots penetrate and widen bedding planes until
carbonate e.g. limestone, which pieces of rock become detached.
gradually dissolves. Absorption of water (hydration): rocks swell and breakdown.…read more

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Case Study: Barton-on-Sea
Causes of erosion
Physical Human
Sand at cliff top is permeable so Weight of houses weaken the cliff
precipitation saturates it and goes through Groynes prevent the sediment being
to clay which is impermeable and falls depositing downdrift so waves attack the
under additional weight (slumping). cliff unhindered.
Destructive waves erode clay and sand, Climate change increases the sea level and
particularly in storms in winter. therefore increases the rate of erosion.…read more

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Soft Engineering
Defence Description Benefits Costs
In-cliff Pipes reduce water pressure No visual pollution Disturbs the cliff
drainage and prevent saturation Less expensive
Cliff face Plants are used to make the cliff Least expensive Plant acids erode rock
vegetation more stable by absorbing Attractive Not strong enough to
water and the roots hold the Low maintenance protect against wind &
soil together destructive waves.…read more


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