A conceptual model for spatial Grain size variability on the surface of and within beaches

Edith Gallagher, Heidi Wadman, Jesse McNinch, Ad Reniers, Melike Koktas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Grain size on the surface of natural beaches has been observed to vary spatially and temporally with morphology and wave energy. The stratigraphy of the beach at Duck, North Carolina, USA was examined using 36 vibracores (~1-1.5 m long) collected along a cross-shore beach profile. Cores show that beach sediments are finer (~0.3 mm) and more uniform high up on the beach. Lower on the beach, with more swash and wave action, the sand is reworked, segregated by size, and deposited in layers and patches. At the deepest measurement sites in the swash (~-1.4 to -1.6 m NAVD88), which are constantly being reworked by the energetic shore break, there is a thick layer (60-80 cm) of very coarse sediment (~2 mm). Examination of two large trenches showed that continuous layers of coarse and fine sands comprise beach stratigraphy. Thicker coarse layers in the trenches (above mean sea level) are likely owing to storm erosion and storm surge elevating the shore break and swash, which act to sort the sediment. Those layers are buried as water level retreats, accretion occurs and the beach recovers from the storm. Thinner coarse layers likely represent similar processes acting on smaller temporal scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article number38
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Part of the special Issue "Coastal Morphodynamics"


  • Beach
  • Depth of disturbance
  • Grain size
  • Morphodynamics
  • Morphology
  • Sediment
  • Shore break
  • Storms
  • Stratigraphy
  • Swash


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