A Climate Index Optimized for Longshore Sediment Transport Reveals Interannual and Multidecadal Littoral Cell Rotations

Dylan Anderson*, Peter Ruggiero, José A.A. Antolínez, Fernando J. Méndez, Jonathan Allan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


A recent 35-year endpoint shoreline change analysis revealed significant counterclockwise rotations occurring in north-central Oregon, USA, littoral cells that extend 10s of kilometers in length. While the potential for severe El Niños to contribute to littoral cell rotations at seasonal to interannual scale was previously recognized, the dynamics resulting in persistent (multidecadal) rotation were unknown, largely due to a lack of historical wave conditions extending back multiple decades and the difficulty of separating the timescales of shoreline variability in a high energy region. This study addresses this question by (1) developing a statistical downscaling framework to characterize wave conditions relevant for longshore sediment transport during data-poor decades and (2) applying a one-line shoreline change model to quantitatively assess the potential for such large embayed beaches to rotate. A climate INdex was optimized to capture variability in longshore wave power as a proxy for potential LOngshore Sediment Transport (LOST_IN), and a procedure was developed to simulate many realizations of potential wave conditions from the index. Waves were transformed dynamically with Simulating Waves Nearshore to the nearshore as inputs to a one-line model that revealed shoreline rotations of embayed beaches at multiple time and spatial scales not previously discernible from infrequent observations. Model results indicate that littoral cells respond to both interannual and multidecadal oscillations, producing comparable shoreline excursions to extreme El Niño winters. The technique quantitatively relates morphodynamic forcing to specific climate patterns and has the potential to better identify and quantify coastal variability on timescales relevant to a changing climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1958-1981
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • climate variability
  • littoral cell evolution
  • longshore sediment transport
  • multidecadal oscillation
  • shoreline change


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