Journal of Marine Science and Engineering (Jan 2024)

Morphodynamic Response of Open and Embayed Beaches to Winter Conditions: Two Case Studies from the North Atlantic Iberian Coast

  • Ángela Fontán-Bouzas,
  • Tiago Abreu,
  • Caroline C. Ferreira,
  • Paulo A. Silva,
  • Laura López-Olmedilla,
  • José Guitián,
  • Ana M. Bernabeu,
  • Javier Alcántara-Carrió

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 1
p. 168


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The morphological responses of two mesotidal beaches located in different coastal settings (embayed and open sandy beaches) on the northwestern Iberian coast were monitored during the winter of 2018/19. The offshore wave time series analysis is related to high-resolution topo-bathymetric measurements to explore spatial-temporal morphological variability at monthly to seasonal scales. Both locations are subjected to the North Atlantic wave climate which exhibits a pronounced seasonality. Throughout the last decade (2010–2020), significant wave heights reached values of up to Hs~9 m during winters and up to Hs~6 m during summers. On average, approximately 12 storms occurred annually in this region. The results clearly reveal divergent morphological responses and sediment transport behaviors at the upper beach and the intertidal zone during the winter for each location. In the embayed beach (Patos), sediment transport in the nearshore is governed by cross-shore processes between the beach berm and a submerged sandbar. In contrast, the open beach (Mira) showed dynamic sediment exchanges and three-dimensional morphologies alternating between accumulation and erosion zones. Overall, both beaches exhibited an erosional trend after the winter, particularly concerning berm erosion and the subaerial beach volume/shoreline retreat. This study highlights the contrasting morphodynamic response on open and embayed beaches to winter conditions, integrating both the subaerial and submerged zones. Local geological and environmental factors, as well as the coastal management strategies applied, will influence how the beach responds to winter wave events. Monitoring and understanding these responses are essential for effective coastal management and adaptation to changing climate.