Outer Banks Coastal Research – Forces

Outer Banks Coastal Research – Forces

Music; Ambience Ocean waves, wind

The coastline is a crucible of ever-changing forces. Trying to understand the dynamics of this place is a daunting task. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“What goes on at the shoreline is a complex interaction of a number of forces. I once heard one of our senior scientists say that it was probably easier to land a person on the moon than to understand exactly what’s going on at the coast.”

Bill Birkemeier is director of the Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

“We have strong winds that impact the water surface and create waves. We have waves. We have the water level changing due to the tides and the storm surge, and the waves are pushing water up on the coast. And all this is interacting. We might have waves from one direction and waves from another direction at the same time, and what moves the coast is sort of the combined effect of all of those. And what we want to do is try to sort out which are the important parameters, and how can we model them and predict them.

Birkemeier talks about the beach responding to the forces of nature, like a living canvas being painted by wind and water.

“Typically, when the waves get big, the beach erodes. We just don’t know how it happens and what sequences occurs, and where does the sand go. And so, one of the things that this facility’s been very important in understanding is where that sand moves and how much moves and far it moves. And what it typically does is it comes off the beach, and it moves offshore. And it builds sandbars. These are like reservoirs of eroded sand. It’s offshore. It’s sitting there. It causes the waves to break and is sort of a natural protection for the beach itself, so that the sand erodes from the beach. The beach gets narrower and thinner, but the sand is offshore, and the waves are breaking there, so less wave energy’s actually arriving at the beach. So a big sandbar is a sign of a storm shape of our beach.”

We’ll hear more on coastline research in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

Outer Banks Coastal Research - Forces

With the constant interplay of waves, wind and erosion, the coastline is a crucible of ever-changing forces.
Air Date:08/07/2009
Scientist:
Transcript:

Outer Banks Coastal Research - Forces

Music; Ambience Ocean waves, wind

The coastline is a crucible of ever-changing forces. Trying to understand the dynamics of this place is a daunting task. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"What goes on at the shoreline is a complex interaction of a number of forces. I once heard one of our senior scientists say that it was probably easier to land a person on the moon than to understand exactly what's going on at the coast."

Bill Birkemeier is director of the Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

"We have strong winds that impact the water surface and create waves. We have waves. We have the water level changing due to the tides and the storm surge, and the waves are pushing water up on the coast. And all this is interacting. We might have waves from one direction and waves from another direction at the same time, and what moves the coast is sort of the combined effect of all of those. And what we want to do is try to sort out which are the important parameters, and how can we model them and predict them.

Birkemeier talks about the beach responding to the forces of nature, like a living canvas being painted by wind and water.

"Typically, when the waves get big, the beach erodes. We just don't know how it happens and what sequences occurs, and where does the sand go. And so, one of the things that this facility's been very important in understanding is where that sand moves and how much moves and far it moves. And what it typically does is it comes off the beach, and it moves offshore. And it builds sandbars. These are like reservoirs of eroded sand. It's offshore. It's sitting there. It causes the waves to break and is sort of a natural protection for the beach itself, so that the sand erodes from the beach. The beach gets narrower and thinner, but the sand is offshore, and the waves are breaking there, so less wave energy's actually arriving at the beach. So a big sandbar is a sign of a storm shape of our beach."

We'll hear more on coastline research in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.