Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Research Publications: UM-SG-RS-2017-15

Title: 

Influences of wave climate and sea level on shoreline erosion rates in the Maryland Chesapeake Bay.

Year: 

2017

Authors: 

Sanford, LP; Gao, J

Source: 

Estuaries and Coasts :1-19

DOI: 

DOI 10.1007/s12237-017-0257-7

Abstract: 

We investigated spatial correlations between wave forcing, sea level fluctuations, and shoreline erosion in the Maryland Chesapeake Bay (CB), in an attempt to identify the most important relationships and their spatial patterns. We implemented the Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) model and a parametric wave model from the USEPA Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) to simulate wave climate in CB from 1985 to 2005. Calibrated sea level simulations from the CBP hydrodynamic model over the same time period were also acquired. The separate and joint statistics of waves and sea level were investigated for the entire CB. Spatial patterns of sea level during the high wave events most important for erosion were dominated by local north-south winds in the upper Bay and by remote coastal forcing in the lower Bay. We combined wave and sea level data sets with estimates of historical shoreline erosion rates and shoreline characteristics compiled by the State of Maryland at two different spatial resolutions to explore the factors affecting erosion. The results show that wave power is the most significant influence on erosion in the Maryland CB, but that many other local factors are also implicated. Marshy shorelines show a more homogeneous, approximately linear relationship between wave power and erosion rates, whereas bank shorelines are more complex. Marshy shorelines appear to erode faster than bank shorelines, for the same wave power and bank height. A new expression for the rate of shoreline erosion is proposed, building on previous work. The proposed new relationship expresses the mass rate of shoreline erosion as a locally linear function of the difference between applied wave power and a threshold wave power, multiplied by a structure function that depends on the ratio of water depth to bank height.

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