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Coasts Key Terms Dictionary
Coast Where the land meets the sea.
Spring tide A tide just after a new or full moon.
High tide The state of the tide when at its
highest level.
Neap tide A less than average tide occurring
at the first and third quarters of

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Swell A relatively smooth ocean wave that
travels some distance from the area
of its generation.
Crest Highest point of a wave.
trough Lowest point of a wave.
Swash Water movement up a beach.
Backwash Water movement down a beach.
Fetch The distance of uninterrupted
water surface over which…

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Biological weathering The breakdown of rock through the
action of plants and animals.
Chemical weathering The decomposition (or rotting) of
rock caused by a chemical change
within that rock; sea water causes
chemical weathering of cliffs.
Oxidation When iron reacts with oxygen in the
air or water causing it to…

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crystals that grow and force the
rock apart.
Exfoliation / onion skin A form physical weathering that
occurs in very warm climates when
a rock is repeatedly heated and
Mass movement The downhill movement of
weathered material under the force
of gravity. The speed can vary
considerably, from soil…

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Repeated expansion and contraction
of the cracks leads to the breakup
of the surrounding rock.
Attrition The process whereby rock particles
wear down through collisions with
other rock particles. This often
occurs when pebbles are thrown
against cliffs, boulders or other
pebbles, causing them to shatter
and break.
Corrasion /…

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Arch When caves, which have developed
on either side of a headland, join
together they form a natural arch.
Stack When a natural arch collapses, the
remaining upright sections form
stacks, isolated rocks sticking up
out of the sea.
Stump Stacks are eroded down until there
is only a tiny…

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different properties. Hard rocks
tend to be more resistant to
weathering, due to being cemented
and well consolidated. They are
usually stable than softer rocks.
Many features such as stacks,
arches and caves are generally
formed in harder rocks.
Soft rock Easily eroded rock such as
limestone and chalk, more…

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between berms on shingle beaches.
Runnels are the corresponding
Bar A bar is very similar to a spit. It is a
ridge of sand or shingle which forms
across the mouth of a river, the
entrance to a bay or harbour. It is
usually parallel to the coast.


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