Log In Start studying!

Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

Coastal Processes

Coastal Processes

Does a coast just 'happen'? Do the landforms appear overnight? Of course not! Coastal processes are the different ways that sediment is moved around the coastal system. Some processes take sediment away from the coast, others add sediment to it, and the rest just move sediment around. Have you ever visited the coast? If you have, the chances are you will have seen evidence of some or all of these processes! Sitting on a sandy beach and watching waves crash against the rocks are just two examples of you seeing the result of coastal processes. How? Stay tuned to find out!

Geography coastal processes definition

First things first, it's time to do some defining. In geography, the coastal process definition is as follows:

A coastal process is a way in which sediment is moved around the coastal system. This can be through removing and/or breaking down sediment (erosion and weathering), moving it around (transportation) or adding sediment (deposition).

From this definition, it is clear that there isn't just one coastal process behind the shaping of coastal environments. In fact, there are four main types of coastal processes. Each of these four processes can happen in slightly different ways, giving us different types of coastal processes. Confused? Don't worry. Let's break it down.

Types of coastal processes

There are four main types of coastal processes: erosion, weathering, transportation and deposition. Erosion and weathering both break down the material, transportation moves it around, and deposition adds material to the landscape.

If you need help remembering, think of the processes like this...

  • If something is eroded or weathered, it is worn out or broken down!
  • If something is transported, it is moved about.
  • If something is deposited, it is added or left somewhere else.

Coastal erosion processes

Coastal erosion is the breaking down and transporting away of material. This typically occurs because of interactions involving the sea itself. As we mentioned earlier, there are different types of coastal erosion. The main ones we are going to concern ourselves with are abrasion, hydraulic action, attrition and solution, all actions that take something away from the coast.

Coastal erosion processes
Coastal processExplanation
AbrasionCoastal abrasion happens when a rock is carried along by the water and smashes into a cliff, causing a piece of that cliff to break off. Abrasion breaks down the material and then transports it away.
Hydraulic actionHydraulic action is a type of coastal erosion done by the sea itself. Have you seen waves crashing against the rocks along the coast? These waves can be so powerful that they can cause the rock to break apart. The broken-down rock is then carried away by the waves.
AttritionWhen it comes to coastal processes, attrition is the coastal process that involves the breaking down of rocks by other rocks. While you might confuse this with abrasion, the two are actually somewhat different. Attrition happens when pieces of broken rocks that are floating in the sea crash into other broken pieces of rock in the sea. Over time, those pieces erode, leaving smooth pebbles behind.
SolutionIn coastal processes, solution is the process of a rock being dissolved by the sea and then transported away. While limestone and chalk are very susceptible to dissolving after coming into contact with seawater, not all rock types will be affected by seawater.
Table 1

Coastal weathering processes

Coastal weathering is a type of coastal process that also involves the breaking down of rock. So, how is this any different from erosion? Where erosion involves the breaking down and transporting away of rock, weathering breaks down the rock in-situ (aka where it is found).

Erosion happens if a rock is broken down and transported away by the sea. Weathering happens if a rock is broken down and left where it is.

There are 3 types of coastal weathering: mechanical, chemical and biological. Essentially, this means that weathering can be done by physical factors (e.g. the climate), chemical factors (e.g. acid rain and seawater) and/or biological factors (e.g. animals burrowing into rocks). You can read all about these different subprocesses in our explanation on Weathering.

Coastal Processes Biological Weathering StudySmarterFig. 1 - Animal burrows are a type of biological weathering

Did you know? While most people think of coastal processes happening in or near the sea, weathering often happens on land and above sea level. We call this subaerial weathering.

Coastal transportation processes

In the same way that you can be transported by your feet, bike, scooter, cars, bus, boat, plane and countless other forms of transport, sediment can be transported by a range of coastal transportation processes. In the same way that money or convenience might help you choose your mode of transport, the type of coastal transportation happening is often determined by the size of the sediment or material being transported. Will it be solution? Will it be suspension? Will it be saltation or traction? What do all of these words mean? Let's take a look.

Coastal transportation processes
Transportation processExplanation
SolutionAs mentioned above, solution happens when a rock dissolves after coming into contact with seawater and is then transported away within the water.

Imagine putting a sugar cube in your cup of tea. The sugar cube is transported around the cup via the tea. The same thing happens with material (e.g. limestone) and seawater.

Remember: A big part of coastal erosion is transporting the material away from where it was broken down. This means that a lot of coastal transportation processes are also involved in coastal erosion!

SuspensionSuspension transports material by carrying it along with the water's flow. For this to work, the material often has to be quite light in weight. Silt is a great example of something often transported via suspension.

Silt is a fine type of material (particles that are bigger than clay but smaller than sand) that is often transported through suspension.

SaltationIn simple terms, saltation describes transportation that happens when material is bounced along the seabed. The type of material is often larger in size and weight than those transported by suspension. This is because it is too heavy to be transported, and the waves do not have enough energy to move the material by carrying it. Some examples of materials that are transported via saltation are large sand particles and small bits of shingle.
TractionTraction is a transportation type usually saved for the largest and heaviest materials in the water. These materials are rolled along the floor.
Table 2

Coastal deposition processes

So we know how material is broken down and how it is transported around coasts, but how is it added to certain areas? The answer is, of course, coastal deposition. Almost acting in complete opposite to coastal erosion, coastal deposition happens when sediment being transported around is dropped. Over time, this can cause material or sediment to build up. This is how we get our beautiful sandy beaches. So, how does this happen?

  • When waves lose their energy, they drop the material they were carrying. This can happen as waves slow down or when the water gets more shallow, or even when there is not much wind keeping the wave's energy up.

Our explanation of Waves describes the different types of waves we encounter on our seas. Constructive waves are lower-energy waves behind coastal deposition. By contrast, destructive waves are higher-energy waves that drive certain processes of coastal erosion. Be sure to check out our explanation for more detail on these waves and how they are different from each other!

Effects of coastal processes

Ultimately, the major effects of coastal processes are quite obvious. Either they break down the material, transport it away or deposit it somewhere. This can result in the coastline retreating or being built up with extra sand and other material. As well as influencing the coastline as a whole, these processes can result in the most amazing Coastal Landforms. In fact, the landforms you see along the coast can tell you whether an area of the coastline is dominated by erosion and weathering or deposition.

Coastal Processes Landforms StudySmarterFig. 2 - Arches are created by coastal erosion; beaches are created by coastal deposition

Beyond shaping the environment, erosion and weathering can have devastating effects on people. Homes and entire villages can be destroyed, causing people to lose their jobs and livelihoods. Deposition can make gorgeous sandy beaches that entice tourists, which can boost the local economy and create lots of jobs for locals.

Transportation can have a mix of effects. It can starve areas of sediment while providing it to others. Therefore, you should consider the effects of transportation on both the area from which it is transporting material and the area it is transporting it.

Coastal processes examples

Here are a few quick-fire examples of coastal processes to use to boost your exam answers:

Coastal erosion is happening at the fastest rate in Europe along the Holderness coast in NE England. Erosion, alongside weathering, is causing the coastline to retreat at around 2m every year.

Coastal Processes Holderness coast StudySmarterFig. 3 - The Holderness coast is the fastest-eroding coastline in Europe

Coastal deposition is found on the other side of the UK (NW) at Formby beach. This beach is known for being gloriously sandy and even having lots of sand dunes. This is an example of a classic landform formed by lots of coastal deposition.

Coastal processes - Key takeaways

  • The main types of coastal processes are erosion, weathering, transportation and deposition.
  • Coastal processes can influence the shape of the coastline, as well as the people living on or near the coast.
  • Coastal processes are evident all along the coast, including the UK, where erosion dominates in some places (e.g. Holderness), while deposition dominates in others (e.g. Formby).

References

  1. Fig. 1 biological weathering (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Uca_tangeri_-_burrow_entrance_-_Cabanas_de_Tavira,_Portugal.jpg) by PePeEfe (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:PePeEfe) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
  2. Fig. 2 Arch created by coastal erosion (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Durdle_Door_Overview.jpg) by Saffron Blaze (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Saffron_Blaze) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
  3. Fig. 3 Holderness coast, the fastest eroding coastline in Europe (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Looking_north_along_the_Holderness_Coast_-_geograph.org.uk_-_2745952.jpg) by Ian S (https://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/48731) Licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)

Frequently Asked Questions about Coastal Processes

Coastal processes are ways in which sediment is moved around the coastal system. This can be through removing and/or breaking down sediment (erosion and weathering), moving it around (transportation) or adding sediment (deposition).  

Erosion can cause coastal retreat by either breaking down materials or transporting or depositing them elsewhere.

The main coastal processes are erosion and weathering, transportation and deposition. The factors that affect these processes include; rock type, wave type, human and animal activity

Hazardous effects of coastal processes might include; cliff collapse and loss of property.

  • Abrasion
  • Hydraulic action
  • Attrition
  • Solution

Final Coastal Processes Quiz

Question

TRUE or FALSE: Weathering means rocks decomposing and disintegrating in situ, or in place 

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

TRUE or FALSE: weathering and erosion are the same thing

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

Which statements are FALSE?

Show answer

Answer

Biological weathering is a stand-alone process that does not happen in combination with either mechanical or chemical weathering.

Show question

Question

TRUE or FALSE: Mechanical weathering is when plants, animals, and lichens weaken rock which will then eventually disintegrate. 

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

Which statement is FALSE?

Show answer

Answer

Frost weathering is also known as ice shattering.

Show question

Question

TRUE or FALSE: physical weathering and mechanical weathering are not the same.

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

Which statements are TRUE?

Show answer

Answer

Mechanical weathering is also known as physical weathering.

Show question

Question

Which statements are TRUE?

Show answer

Answer

Chemical weathering involves decomposition of rocks because of a chemical reaction between the rock and water.

Show question

Question

TRUE or FALSE: erosion and weathering happen at the same time

Show answer

Answer

True - sometimes

Show question

Question

TRUE or FALSE: another term for saltwater crystal growth is haloclasty

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

Give an example of salt weathering, and explain the example. Where can you find such an example?

Show answer

Answer

An example of salt weathering is a tafone, which is a small to large cavity feature in rocks. It often looks likes honeycombs or Swiss cheese. You can find an example of a tafone at Elgon on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

Show question

Question

TRUE or FALSE: wetting and drying is not common occurrence along coastlines.

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

Explain the process of salt water crystal growth.

Show answer

Answer

Salty sea water collects in cracks in the rocks where salt crystals will form when the water evaporates, leaving only salt particles behind. When temperatures rise, the crystals heat up and expand, putting immense pressure on the rock, and causing it to break.

Show question

Question

What are the 3 types of weathering?

Show answer

Answer

Chemical

Show question

Question

Which statement is FALSE?

Show answer

Answer

Weathering is a coastal process often confused with erosion.

Show question

Question

What do waves typically transport?

Show answer

Answer

Sand/sediment

Show question

Question

What are the 2 types of wave?

Show answer

Answer

Destructive

Show question

Question

What type of wave has a strong swash and weak backwash?

Show answer

Answer

Constructive

Show question

Question

What type of wave has a strong backwash and weak swash?

Show answer

Answer

Destructive

Show question

Question

What is the 'swash'?

Show answer

Answer

The movement of a wave up the beach after it breaks

Show question

Question

What happens if the backwash is stronger than the swash?

Show answer

Answer

Erosion

Show question

Question

What is the wave frequency of a constructive wave?

Show answer

Answer

6-8 per minute

Show question

Question

What are the 3 things which determine the size of a wave?

Show answer

Answer

Fetch

Wind strength

Duration of wind blowing

Show question

Question

What is the fetch?

Show answer

Answer

The distance wind travels (uninterrupted) over the water

Show question

Question

True or false: destructive waves have a small wave height

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

True or false: constructive waves have a short wave frequency

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or false: wave amplitude and wave height are the same thing

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

What is the highest part of a wave called?

Show answer

Answer

Crest

Show question

Question

What do you call the distance between the crest of a wave and the trough of a wave?

Show answer

Answer

Wave height

Show question

Question

Which of the following statements is NOT true

Show answer

Answer

Erosion only involves the breaking down of material where it is

Show question

Question

What is the definition of erosion?

Show answer

Answer

The process by which material (rock) is broken down and transported away

Show question

Question

What are the 4 types of coastal transportation?

Show answer

Answer

Solution, suspension, saltation and traction

Show question

Question

Which of these isn't a type of erosion?

Show answer

Answer

Traction

Show question

Question

What is the difference between abrasion and attrition?

Show answer

Answer

Abrasion is when rocks (usually carried by water) crash against a rock and cause it to break away. Attrition is when two rocks being carried by water crash against each other, causing one or both to break down some more.

Show question

Question

Which type of material is transported by suspension?

Show answer

Answer

Light, small material

Show question

Question

What is physical weathering?

Show answer

Answer

The break down of material in situ (where it is) caused by the physical environment (e.g. the climate)

Show question

Question

True or false: coastal deposition can create sandy beaches

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What type of waves cause coastal deposition?

Show answer

Answer

Constructive

Show question

Question

What causes a wave to deposit material?

Show answer

Answer

  • Loss of energy
  • Lack of wind
  • Wave slowing down

Show question

Question

Give an example of a place in the UK that has a lot of coastal erosion

Show answer

Answer

Holderness coast (NE England)

Show question

Question

Give an example of a place in the UK that has a lot of coastal deposition

Show answer

Answer

Formby beach (NW England)

Show question

Question

True or false: all coastal processes happen by or under the water.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Hydraulic action is an example of erosion that breaks down rocks by __________

Show answer

Answer

The force of water / waves

Show question

Question

What determines the speed of mass movement?

Show answer

Answer

1. The angle of the slope

2. The type of material

3. The structure of the rocks

Show question

Question

Why is mass movement important along the coast?

Show answer

Answer

Mass movement affects the formation of coastal landforms. 

Show question

Question

True or False:

Mass movement can cause people to become injured.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

What are the three types of mass movement about which you learnt?

Show answer

Answer

1. Slumping

2. Sliding- Landslides

3. Rockfalls

Show question

Question

True or False:

Slumping mass movement occurs along a straight plane.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Rainfall acts as a _____________ for mass movement.

Show answer

Answer

Lubricant

Show question

Question

Three types of sliding mass movement are?

Show answer

Answer

1. Landslides

2. Rockslides

3. Mudslides

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Coastal Processes quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.