GLY 4734 – Coastal Processes and Morphology

Time and Location

Tues. 9:35 – 10:25am, Thurs. 9:35 – 11:30am, 202 Williamson Hall

Description and Goals

This class will focus on quantitative investigations into the origin/evolution of coastal landforms and the physical processes responsible for their creation and modification.  We will cover the following topics:  geomorphic classification of coasts, sediment description and analysis, sea level fluctuation, tides, generation and transformation of waves, wave breaking, nearshore currents, longshore and cross-shore sediment transport, deltas, estuaries, beach and nearshore morphology, barrier island systems, cliffed coasts, and the effects of climate change on coastal environments.

Course Objectives: At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Summarize the schemes of coastal classification and identify the tectonic setting of a coast by evaluating the coastal landforms at a location.
  • Appreciate the influence of global climate and long-term sea level history on a coastal setting.
  • Distinguish among various processes responsible for short-term dynamic changes in sea level.
  • Explain the origin of the tides with Newton’s equilibrium theory and the complexities explained by dynamic tidal theory.
  • Outline the processes of wave transformation from generation to propagation to shoaling and breaking including the role of refraction.
  • Summarize the generation of cross-shore and longshore currents in shallow coastal waters.
  • Classify coastal sediments and demonstrate how sediment transport within littoral cells influences the evolution of shore profiles and planform shapes.
  • Link the form and variability of beaches and shallow sedimentary features to the hydrodynamic and sedimentary processes shaping them.
  • Provide an overview of how barrier systems originate and evolve.
  • Explain the linked behavior of tidal inlets, estuary hydrodynamics, and back barrier morphology.
  • Contrast rocky and sandy coasts in terms of dominant geomorphic processes.
  • Provide several examples where humans are adapting to, or altering, a coastal site.