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Coastal Scenery Evaluation and Management; A Book By Nelson Rangel-Buitrago

Coastal Scenery:

Evaluation and Management

Editor: ©Nelson Rangel-Buitrago, Departamentos de Física y Biologia, Universidad del Atlantico, Barranquilla; Atlantico, Colombia

Giorgio Anfuso, Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Marine and Environmental Sciences, University of Cadiz Spain
Ayes Ergin, Department of Civil Engineering, Coastal Engineering Division, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey
Anton Micallef, Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Insular Coastal Dynamics, Institute of Earth Systems, University of Malta, Msida, Malta
Enzo Pranzini, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
Allan T. williams, Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Engineering, University of Wales, Swansea, Wales, UK
CICA NOVA, Nova Universitad de Lisboa, Lisbon Portugal

Published by Springer

Coastal Scenery Evaluation and Management, describes an easy to apply methodology to determine the scenic value of a coast. As one of the most critical aspects of beach user choice, the determination of coastal area scenic quality is of primordial importance. This book is, therefore, an extremely useful tool for any coastal lovers, being them users, teachers, researchers, or managers.

In particular, this work is the first book to present a semi-quantitative analysis of coastal scenery based on more than 4,000 interviews about people’s desired coastal imaginary. Twenty-six parameters can be used to identify any coastal scene, which have then been sub-divided into five attribute categories, weighted and subjected to fuzzy logic mathematics to obtain a decision number (D). This number D represents the coastal scenery at that point, and Five D classes are then presented (from I-excellent, to V-poor). Heritage areas, like National Parks should lie in Class I, which infers top scenic quality.
Over a time span of a decade or so, the authors of this book have assessed more than 900 global locations using the technique given in this book. One of the main aims of this method is to point out how scenic areas may be improved by judicious intervention relating to parameters, mainly anthropogenic, chosen for assessment.

The content of this book opens perspectives for analysis of the potential for coastal tourism development in natural areas and for landscape quality improvement in current coastal tourist developed areas.

“In a very comprehensive way, this book reviews the main concepts about coastal scenery and through the vast global work experience of the authors, presents different methodologies, as well as introducing a novel methodology, using parameter weightings and fuzzy logic mathematics.”
Carlos Pereira da Silva, CICS.NOVA, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal

“Our lives will be greatly enriched by finding beauty, but we can use help in defining the many ways beauty can be manifested. This book can help us by informing us of the ways landscapes can be viewed and described from many viewpoints to place our own understanding in better perspective.”
Karl Nordstrom, Geography Department, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA

“How do we define and quantify a coast’s scenic value? This is the book. It begins by defining coastal scenery, then reviews the approaches to quantifying it, followed by a new fuzzy logic approach and examples. It finishes with a chapter on how to manage these attractive landscapes, many of which are being overrun and ruined by development. This is a must read for researchers who wish to evaluate and managers who wish to maintain this valuable yet intangible coastal resource.”
Andrew Short, Coastal Studies Unit, Sydney University, Australia

About the Author

Nelson Rangel is a Full Professor of Geology at the University of Atlantico, Barranquilla, Colombia. He has been teaching at the university level since 2003. In addition to his teaching experience, he has conducted many research projects on geology, anthropic geomorphology, and oceanography and has served as an expert consultant for national and international organisations, mostly in Spain and Colombia. Dr. Rangel has published more than 40 articles in international journals and has edited or authored 25 books.

In Preview:

Chapter 1
Coastal Scenery: An Introduction

Copyright © 2018 – Nelson Rangel-Buitrago

Nelson Rangel-Buitrago, Allan T. Williams, Aysen Ergin, Giorgio Anfuso, Anton Micallef and Enzo Pranzini

“Mir hilft der Geist; auf einmal she’ich Rat.
Und schreibe getrost. Im Anfang war die Tat.”
Goethe, Faust Part 1, lines 1236-7


Coastal tourism includes those recreational activities which involve travel away from one’s place of residence which has as their host or focus the coastal zone. This industry necessarily depends on the coastal environment to attract tourists. Excellent scenery is maybe the prime factor considered by a potential tourist when is time to choose a coastal vacation destination. Coastal scenery management, a controlled tourism growth, an enhancing of the product, the constant upgrading of the quality of offer and service, as well a diversified clientele, can be considered as critical points for an ideal tourism development that will satisfy both visitors and those whose livelihood depends on it.


It is so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun. Matthew Arnald, Empedocles on Etna, 1, ii, 397

Coasts are the most dynamic and valued geomorphological features on the surface of the earth (Pilkey and Cooper 2014). They serve as home to a multitude of living organisms, including humans and are in continuous change due to a large variety of processes. From ancient times, coasts have played a significant role as a place for human settlement and economic development (Barragan and Andreis 2015). “The coastline is of special importance” (Steers 1944, 5), however is a very fragile environment easily affected by disordered infrastructures emplacement and activities, such as, industry, tourism,, agriculture and fishing, amongst others.

During past years, there has been overdevelopment of many of these areas due to unbridled pursuit for further economic benefits. This had led an increase in environmental impacts due to processes that includes, amongst others, sand mining (Rangel-Buitrago et al. 2015a,b) beach pollution (Williams et al. 2013), and coastal armoring (Pranzini and Williams 2013).

The invaluable significance of coastal landscapes to society has long been recognized and is reflected by the plethora of existing protection status areas, such as, National Parks, Heritage Coasts, Wilderness Areas, Protected Landscapes and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. However, despite the existence of these entities whose designations are strongly influenced by scenic beauty, scenic degradation globally greatly affects many coasts.

In the last few decades, the number of people able to visit coastal zones for recreational purposes has increased exponentially and correspondingly a popular desire to protect and conserve beautiful scenery has also risen over this period (UNEP 2009; Miller et al 2010; UNWTO 2016). Frequently, coastal stakeholders and decision makers have been faced with a complicated question: Should landscape development be impaired for the sake of conserving the natural scenery, or vice versa? This can only be answered by determining what landscapes are favored by society as a who;e and this requires evaluation of the relative quality of coastal scenery by Governments in order that it can be compared to those of other landscapes and to the needs of other resource users. After all, “coastal scenery is a resource, partly because of the economic value and partly because it is an accepted component of resource assessment programs” (Kaye and Alder 1999, 303-304). Evaluation of a coastal landscape is important as it provides measurement, description, and classification schemes (Dakin 2003; Ergin et al.2004; Rangel-Buitrago et al.2013), giving means by which scenery/amenities can be compared against other resource considerations (Ergin et al. 2006). It is a visual expression of the coast, and is a great resource that has not been analyzed in detail on any scientific basis.

In addition, it can improve resource inventories, carrying capacity decision making, and can be included into Environmental Impact Assessments (region et al. 2004). Coastal scenic evaluations allow managers to determine the relative attractiveness of locations so that informed decisions concerning improvements to the scenic quality of the landscape and their management may be made.

While this applies to all landscapes, it is of particular importance to coastal scenery. Worldwide coastal scenery problems are further amplified by a tourist industry that is struggling to fill gaps left in the world economy by the decline of heavy industry and a rise in general affluence (Williams and Ergin 2004). The coastal tourist industry mainly depends on beaches to attract tourists (Botterill et al. 2000; White et al. 2010) and many diverse studies have shown that excellent coastal scenery is one of the major factors considered by tourists when choosing a beach vacation (Miller 1993; Unal and Williams 1999; Jedrzejczak 2004; Williams and al. 2016).

Scenery may be defined as “the appearance of an area” (Council of Europe 2000) and is a part of a coastal landscape inventory available for different coastal disciplines, such as, geography, geology, planning, etc. Likewise, coastal landscapes can be described as a littoral area, as perceived by humans, whose character results from the multiple interactions between natural and/or human factors (Council of Europe 2000).

Inside this book the reader can find an exhaustive review of existing scenery evaluation techniques, and can also obtain a novel methodology for coastal landscape evaluation, the Coastal Scenic Evaluation System (CSES) presented in Chap.4, which is applied and presented by worldwide cases studies. However, it is salutary to note the words written over 70 years ago by a world leading coastal geographer that “any assessment of coastal scenery is likely to meet with criticism” (Steers 1944, 6). A series of recommendations is also given for adequate coastal scenery management.

Over a time span of a decade or so, the authors of this book have assessed more than 952 global locations by the technique given in Chaps.4 and 5. Coastal/beach management, mainly driven by the tourist industry and appropriate government policies (designation of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, amongst others) has improved immensely and therefore the figures given here for coastal scenery may not represent the current situation. We urge readers to visit place mentioned in this bool and assess their scenic value in order to realize an up to date figure for that particular location. One of the aims of the technique is to point out how scenic areas may be improved by judicious intervention relating to parameters, mainly anthropogenic, chosen for assessment.

The content of this book aims to open perspectives for analysis of the potential for coastal tourism development in natural areas and for scenic quality improvement in current coastal tourist developed areas. It will be a helpful tool for coastal lovers that include users, teachers, researchers, and managers.

Where River Meets Ocean

Elwha river estuary, Washington State. Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care


Oceanographer uncovers the relationship between size and productivity in one of the world’s most complex ecosystems.

They exist all over the world, are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth and are home to a diverse array of wildlife. They also are essential to the global economy. They are estuaries — coastal embayments where fresh river water and salty ocean water meet.

But this simple definition belies the estuary’s complexity, diversity and importance to human sustainability…

Read Full Article; UCSB News (07-09-2018)

Our coastal cemeteries are falling into the sea; By Orrin H. Pilkey & William J. Neal

El Morro Cemetery, Puerto Rico. Photo source: ©© Kevin Baird.
“Cemeteries by the sea are silent sentinels. Like lighthouses and coastal fortifications, they bear dates of former times when they were on high and dry land…”—William J. Neal & Orrin H. Pilkey (2013-©)


A cemetery is a place of respect for the dead and its location is chosen with the expectation that it will be there for generations. Cemeteries in coastal areas were not located with the expectation that they would flood or fall into the sea. But most of the world’s ocean and estuarine shorelines are eroding — some slowly like California’s rocky coasts, and others rapidly like the Carolinas’ barrier island coasts.

Coastal cemeteries around the world are in imminent danger of falling into the sea…

Read Full Article; The News & Observer (05-29-2018)

Cemeteries in the Sea; By William J. Neal & Orrin H. Pilkey; By Orrin H. Pilkey & William J. Neal (11-01-2013)

Erosion at New York’s Hart Island graveyard unearths human bones; CBS News (04-25-2018)
Hart Island, a massive burial ground near the Bronx borough of New York City, is eroding, unearthing human bones along the shoreline. Advocates said the city hasn’t done anything – until now…

Cooks government ready to deal with vulnerable cemetery, Radio NZ (02-22-2016)
The Cook Islands government says work on a retaining wall that will protect a cemetery from losing more graves to the sea is going to start immediately…

Kiwi graves disappearing off cliffs in Rarotonga ‘like no one cares’, TVNZ (02-23-2013)
A cemetery in the Pacific nation literally washing away, and the Cook Islands government is refusing to do anything about it…

Rising Seas Wash Dead Away from Marshall Islands Graves, Guardian UK (06-06-2014)

Sea-level rise: the defining issue of the century; Editorial

A Gulf Coast of Florida community. Captions and Photograph courtesy of:© Orrin H. Pilkey and J. Andrew G. Cooper


No graver threat faces the future of South Florida than the accelerating pace of sea-level rise. In the past century, the sea has risen 9 inches. In the past 23 years, it’s risen 3 inches. By 2060, it’s predicted to rise another 2 feet, with no sign of slowing down…

Read Full Article; Sun Sentinel (04-04-2018)

Column: The future of Florida’s beaches and the public’s right to know; Op Ed. by Orrin Pilkey (12-07-2015)

Gone with the wind: storms deepen Florida’s beach sand crunch; Reuters (02-16-2018)
Costs of so-called beach renourishments are a fraction of the total, measured in hundreds of millions of dollars, but the effort is crucial for Florida’s $67 billion tourism industry. And while sand needs are surging, there is not enough to go around…

Sand: the new gold

“Sand is the second most consumed natural resource, after water. The construction-building industry is by far the largest consumer of this finite resource. The traditional building of one average-sized house requires 200 tons of sand; a hospital requires 3,000 tons of sand; each kilometer of highway built requires 30,000 tons of sand… A nuclear plant, a staggering 12 million tons of sand…”Captions and Photograph by “Sand Wars” Award-Winning Filmmaker: Denis Delestrac. ©-2013


Il s’agit de la ressource naturelle la plus utilisée dans le monde.Au Cambodge, son extraction a provoqué une catastrophe environnementale…

This is one of the most consumed natural resources in the world. In cambodia, its mining as lead to an environmental catastrophe, while in Singapore sand has contributed to 24% of the island’s expansion.

Read Full Article; “Le sable, nouvel or jaune – Razzia sur le sable”; Les Echos (02-2018)

Built on Sand: Singapore and the New State of Risk; Harvard Design Magazine, (09-07-2015)
The island’s expansion has been a colossal undertaking. It is not merely a matter of coastal reclamation: Singapore is growing vertically as well as horizontally. This means that the nation’s market needs fine river sand—used for beaches and concrete—as well as coarse sea sand to create new ground…

Sand Storm: $750 Million Worth of The Material is Unaccounted For in Cambodia; RFA (11-02-2016)
Nearly 50 civil society organizations called for the Cambodian government to join some other Southeast Asian nations and ban or severely restrict exports of sand to Singapore after it was revealed that nearly $750 million worth of the building material has disappeared from the country…

Singapore’s data mirrors UN’s on Cambodia’s sand export numbers; The Phon Penh Post (10-19-2016)
Singaporean customs data on sand imports from Cambodia show near identical figures to those recorded by the UN, which last month were dismissed by a top official amid a reporting discrepancy in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The UN data showed $752 million in imports of sand from Cambodia since 2007, despite Cambodia reporting only about $5 million in exports to Singapore…

Cambodia digs into sand mining industry as beaches vanish, Reuters (11-05-2016)
Cambodian officials have promised to investigate problems in the sand mining business following complaints from fishermen that dredgers have been stealing the shore beneath their boats on an industrial scale…The ministry’s move came after the release of U.N. trade data compiled by campaigners this week, showing Singapore has imported more than 72 million tons of Cambodian sand since 2007…

Cambodia’s villagers lose ground – literally – to Singapore’s expansion; CSM (10-21-2016)
Singapore is buying tens of millions of tons of sand for its land reclamation projects. Their dredging is destroying Cambodia’s coastal mangrove forests, and fishermen’s livelihoods with them. But the villagers are pushing back…

Such Quantities of Sand, The Economist (07-27-2015)

Singapore Extends Its Coastlines With Illegally Dredged Sand, RT News Video (02-09-2011)

Global Witness, Shifting Sands, Singapore
Shifting Sand: how Singapore’s demand for Cambodian sand threatens ecosystems and undermines good governance

Asia’s hunger for sand takes a toll on endangered species; Science (03-01-2018)
Across Asia, rampant extraction of sand for construction is eroding coastlines and scouring waterways. t’s a global concern, but especially acute in Asia, where all trends show that urbanization and the region’s big construction boom are going to continue for many years…

Sand Is in Such High Demand, People Are Stealing Tons of It, By Dave Roos; HowStuffWorks (03-06-2017)
As strange as it may sound, sand is one of the world’s hottest commodities. The global construction boom has created an insatiable appetite for sand, the chief ingredient for making concrete. The problem is that sand isn’t as abundant as it used to be. And when high demand and high value meets scarcity, you open the doors to smuggling…

The Conservation Crisis No One Is Talking About, By John R. Platt, TakePart (09-21-2016)
Beaches around the world are disappearing. No, the cause isn’t sea-level rise, at least not this time. It’s a little-known but enormous industry called sand mining, which every year sucks up billions of tons of sand from beaches, ocean floors, and rivers to make everything from concrete to microchips to toothpaste…

Tragedy of The Commons: Corrosive Growth of the Illegal Sand Mining Mafia; The Citizen (01-04-2016
Not many people may know that illegal sand mining is a nationwide phenomena in India, and with spurt in housing and infrastructure projects, the illegal sand mining is thriving beyond the ambit of formal economy and law and order. Sand is everywhere and so is the sand mafia…

Sand Thieves Are Eroding World’s Beaches For Castles Of Cash, by Martine Valo, Le Monde (09-2013)
The pillaging of sand is a growing practice in the world. This is because it represents 80% of the composition of concrete that it is the object of such greed…

The Economist explains: Why there is a shortage of sand; The Economist (04-24-2017)
It may be plentiful, but so is the demand for it…

Sand, Rarer Than One Thinks: A UNEP report (GEA-March 2014)
Despite the colossal quantities of sand and gravel being used, our increasing dependence on them and the significant impact that their extraction has on the environment, this issue has been mostly ignored by policy makers and remains largely unknown by the general public.
In March 2014 The United Nations released its first Report about sand mining. “Sand Wars” film documentary by Denis Delestrac – first broadcasted on the european Arte Channel, May 28th, 2013, where it became the highest rated documentary for 2013 – expressly inspired the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to publish this 2014-Global Environmental Alert.

Sand Wars, An Investigation Documentary, By Multi Award-Winning Filmmaker Denis Delestrac (©-2013)
“The construction-building industry is by far the largest consumer of this finite resource. The traditional building of one average-sized house requires 200 tons of sand; a hospital requires 3,000 tons of sand; each kilometer of highway built requires 30,000 tons of sand… A nuclear plant, a staggering 12 million tons of sand…”
As of 2011-2012, when investigative filmmaker Denis Delestrac and team, were collecting and unveiling sand mining datas and information from the professionals involved, “…the sand business was estimated to be a $70 billion industry, worldwide…!”—Denis Delestrac (©-2013)

Global Sand Mining: Learn More, Coastal Care


PETITION: Take Action To End Global Beach Sand Mining, Coastal Care

Illegal beach and dune sand mining operations, near Tangier, Morocco. Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Patterns and projections of high tide flooding along the US coastline using common impact threshold

Photograph courtesy of: © William Neal, Orrin Pilkey & Norma Longo.

Executive Summary – By NOAA;

For forecasting purposes to ensure public safety, NOAA has established three coastal flood severity thresholds. The thresholds are based upon water level heights empirically calibrated to NOAA tide gauge measurements from years of impact monitoring by its Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) and emergency managers. When minor (more disruptive than damaging), moderate (damaging) or major (destructive) coastal flooding is anticipated (not associated with tropical storms), NOAA issues either a flood advisory (for minor) or warning (for moderate or major). Less than half of NOAA tide gauges located along the U.S. coastline have such ‘official’ NOAA flood thresholds, and where they exist, the heights can vary substantially (e.g., 0.3–0.6 meter within minor category). They differ due to the extent of infrastructure vulnerabilities, which vary by topography and relief, land-cover types or existing flood defenses.

We find that all official NOAA coastal flood thresholds share a common pattern based upon the local tide range (possibly in response to systematic development ordinances). Minor, moderate and major coastal flooding typically begin about 0.5 m, 0.8 m and 1.2 m above a height slightly higher than the multi-year average of the daily highest water levels measured by NOAA tide gauges. Based upon this statistical (regression-based) relationship, a ‘derived’ set of flood threshold proxies for minor, moderate or major impacts are permissible for almost any location along the U.S. coastline.

The intent of this report is not to supplant knowledge about local flood risk. Rather, the intention is to provide an objective and nationally consistent set of impact thresholds for minor/moderate/major coastal flooding. Such definitions are currently lacking, which limits the ability to deliver new products as well as the effectiveness of existing coastal flood products. Coastal communities along all U.S. coastlines need consistent guidance about flooding, which is 1) forecasted in the near future (e.g., severity/depth of 4-day predictions of storm surge heights ‘above ground level’), 2) likely in the coming season or year (e.g., probabilistic outlooks) or 3) possible over the longer term (e.g., decadal to end-of-century scenarios). Our primary emphasis is to use the derived threshold for minor flooding, which we refer to as ‘high tide’ flooding (also known as ‘nuisance’, ‘sunny day’ and ‘recurrent tidal’ flooding), to assess nationally how exposure—and potential vulnerability—to high tide flooding has and will continue to change with changing sea levels.

High tide flooding today mostly affects low-lying and exposed assets or infrastructure, such as roads, harbors, beaches, public storm-, waste- and fresh-water systems and private and commercial properties. Due to rising relative sea level (RSL), more and more cities are becoming increasingly exposed and evermore vulnerable to high tide flooding, which is rapidly increasing in frequency, depth and extent along many U.S. coastlines. Today, high tide flooding is likely more disruptive (a nuisance) than damaging. The cumulative effects, however, are becoming a serious problem in several locations including many with strategic importance to national security such as Norfolk, Virginia, San Diego, California and Kwajalein Island in the U.S. Marshall Islands.

Over the last several decades, annual frequencies of high tide flooding are found to be linearly increasing in 31 locations (out of 99 tide gauges examined outside Alaska) mostly along the coasts of the Northeast/Southeast Atlantic and the Eastern/Western Gulf of Mexico, and to a lesser extent, along the Northwest and Southwest Pacific coasts. Annual frequencies are accelerating (nonlinearly increasing) in 30 locations mostly along the Northeast and Southeast Atlantic Coasts. Currently, high tide flood frequencies are increasing at the highest overall rates (and likely becoming most problematic) along the coasts of the Southeast Atlantic and to a lesser extent along the Northeast Atlantic and the Western Gulf. Between 2000 and 2015, annual frequencies increased (median values) by about 125% (from 1.3 days to 3.0 days/year) along the Southeast Atlantic, by 75% (from 3.4 days to 6.0 days/year) along the Northeast Atlantic and by 75% (from 1.4 days to 2.5 days/year) along the Western Gulf.

High tide flooding is currently less problematic along the coasts of the Northwest and Southwest Pacific and the U.S. Pacific (Kwajalein Island being an exception) and Caribbean Islands for two main reasons: 1) the local height of the high tide flood threshold is above the reach of all or most of the annual highest water levels due to a combination of generally calmer weather conditions or bathymetric constraints that limit storm surge potential and 2) regionally RSL rise rates have been relatively low over the last several decades. In these locations, however, large waves (swells) and their high-frequency dynamical effects, which are generally not inherent to NOAA tide gauge measurements, can override high tides and cause dune overwash, coastal erosion and flooding.

High tide flooding regionally occurs more often in certain seasons and during certain years, which is important for awareness and preparedness purposes. The seasonality in flood frequency occurs in response to a spatially varying mixture of rhythmic astronomical tides (‘tidal forcing’), repetitive seasonal mean sea level cycles and less-predictable episodic changes in wind and ocean currents that are nontidal in origin. Frequencies are relatively high during September–April along the Northeast Atlantic Coast and generally peak in October–November. Along the Southeast Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, frequencies are highest during September–November with a secondary peak in June–July. Along both the Northwest and Southwest Pacific, frequencies are highest during November–February with a secondary peak in June– July along the Southwest Pacific.

High tide flood frequencies vary year-to-year due to large-scale changes in weather and ocean circulation patterns, such as during the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). During the El Niño phase, high tide flood frequencies are amplified at 49 (about half of examined) locations along the U.S. West and East Coasts beyond underlying RSL rise-forced trend increases. This predictable ENSO response may better inform annual budgeting in some flood-prone locations for emergency mobilizations and proactive responses. For example, during 2015, high tide flood frequencies were predicted to be 70% and 170% higher than normally would be expected (e.g., above trend values) along the East and West Coasts, respectively, based upon the predicted El Niño strength about a year in advance. Subsequent monitoring the following year verified that a strong El Niño formed, and flood frequencies occurred at or above the trend/ENSO predicted values at many locations.

With continued RSL rise, high tide flood frequencies will continue to rapidly increase and more so simply from tidal forcing, which today is very rare. We assess future changes locally projected under a subset of the global rise scenarios of the U.S. Federal Interagency Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flood Hazard Task Force, specifically the Intermediate Low (0.5 m global rise by 2100) and Intermediate (1.0 m global rise) scenarios. Under these two scenarios, by 2050, annual high tide flood frequencies along the Western Gulf (80 and 185 days/year, respectively) and Northeast Atlantic (45 and 130 days/year) are higher largely because RSL rise is projected to be higher. Along coasts of the Southeast Atlantic (25 and 85 days/year), the Eastern Gulf (25 and 80 days/year), the Southwest (15 and 35 days/year) and Northwest Pacific (15 and 30 days/year), the Pacific (5 and 45 days/year) and Caribbean Islands (0 and 5 days/year), high tide flooding occurs less often because RSL rise projections are lower or weather conditions are typically calmer; however, the rate of increase in annual flood frequencies will eventually increase at very rapid rates. On average across all regions, high tide flooding by 2050 will occur about 35% and 60% of the times solely from tidal forcing under the Intermediate Low and Intermediate Scenarios, respectively.

By 2100, high tide flooding will occur ‘every other day’ (182 days/year) or more often under the Intermediate Low Scenario within the Northeast and Southeast Atlantic, the Eastern and Western Gulf, and the Pacific Islands with tidal forcing causing all (100%) of the floods except within the Eastern Gulf (80% caused by tides). By definition, ‘every other day’ high tide flooding would bring to fruition the saying championed by NOAA’s (late) Margaret Davidson: “Today’s flood will become tomorrow’s high tide.” Under the Intermediate Scenario, high tide flooding will become ‘daily’ flooding (365 days/year with high tide flooding) within nearly all regions with tide forcing alone, causing 100% of flooding.

Lastly, these results illustrate how close U.S. coastal cities are to a tipping point with respect to flood frequency, as only 0.3m to 0.7 m separates infrequent damaging-to-destructive flooding from a regime of high tide flooding—or minor floods from moderate and major floods. This suggests a particular interpretation for ‘freeboard’ and other engineering adaptive methods as the desired level of protection in terms of flood type, in both the present and future. This recognition may in turn facilitate a more systematic implementation of freeboard guidelines nationally.

Read Full Report, NOAA (February-2018)

New Study Finds Sea Level Rise Accelerating; NASA (02-13-2018)
Global sea level rise is accelerating incrementally over time rather than increasing at a steady rate, as previously thought, according to a new study based on 25 years of NASA and European satellite data…

In Next Decades, Frequency of Coastal Flooding Will Double Globally; USGS (05-18-2017)
The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise, according to a new study released in “Scientific Reports.”…

The Ship Breakers

Photo source: ©© Dafydd Waters


After their useful life is over, more than 90 percent of the world’s ocean-going container ships end up on the shores of India, Pakistan, Indonesia, or Bangladesh, where labor is cheap, demand for steel is high, and environmental regulations are lax…

Read Full Article And View Photo Gallery; The Atlantic (11-24-2014)

Breaking Bad on the Beach, NASA / Earth Observatory (09-28-2014)
Tens of thousands of ships ply the world’s oceans, bays, and rivers. But what happens when those ships have become too old or too expensive to operate? In most cases, they end up on the shores of Asia…literally…

The Ship-Breakers, National Geographic (05-2014)
In Bangladesh men desperate for work perform one of the world’s most dangerous jobs…

Chittagong Beach Ship Breaking Yards, Bangladesh, Guardian UK (05-05-2012)
Stretched along 12 miles of what just a decade ago was a pristine sandy beach, ore carriers, container ships, gas tankers, cruise liners and cargo ships of every size and description are being dismantled by hand in 140 similar yards, at Chittagong beach Ship Breaking Yard, Bangladesh, the world’s second largest ship breaking area. Every year more than 250 redundant ships, many from Britain and Europe, come here to be broken up…

New EU Rules ‘Fail’ Against Shipbreaking Dangers, IPS News (07-17-2013)
The European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted last in favour of a proposal aiming to put an end to European ships being recklessly scrapped in developing countries…

Maersk in hot water for sending ships to notorious scrapping beaches; CPH Post Denmark, (10-17-2016)

Worldwide Ship Traffic Up 300 Percent Since 1992, AGU (11-29-2014)
Maritime traffic on the world’s oceans has increased four-fold over the past 20 years, likely causing more water, air and noise pollution on the open seas, according to a new study quantifying global ship traffic…

Super-sized ships: How big can they get? Independent (10-21-2014)
Despite the physical limits and risks, ships of more than 450m are anticipated within the next five years…

“FREIGHTENED – The Real Price of Shipping,” a movie by multi award-winning filmmaker Denis Delestrac-©-2016; (03-31-2016)
90% of the goods we consume in the West are manufactured in far-off lands and brought to us by ship. The cargo shipping industry is a key player in world economy and forms the basis of our very model of modern civilisation; without it, it would be impossible to fulfil the ever-increasing demands of our societies. Yet the functioning and regulations of this business remain largely obscure to many, and its hidden costs affect us all. Due to their size, freight ships no longer fit in traditional city harbours; they have moved out of the public’s eye, behind barriers and check points…

Quick sand, dirty Money; South Africa

Durban, South Africa. Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care


Illegal sand mining in South Africa is starving beaches of sand, ruining rivers, and endangering lives.

Mining has already cut coastal sand supply by as much as 70 percent in the municipality of Ethekwini, which includes Durban, according to a study by South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)—repeating a pattern that is playing out around the world as cities spread.

Each year, miners dig up more than 400,000 cubic meters of sand from Durban’s rivers, enough to fill 160 Olympic swimming pools. This sand would normally be deposited on beaches and help offset coastal erosion. At current mining rates, Durban’s beaches are predicted to contract, on average, by more than a meter each year…

Read Full Article, Hakai Magazine (12-05-2017)

The environmental loss of illegal sand mining in South Africa, ENCA (01-07-2016)
Research shows that KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape are home to more than 200 illegal sand mining operations. Umvoti River sand is as good as gold in the construction industry. Its stellar components have placed it among the best sand in South Africa for building purposes. But this comes at a great environmental loss…

Sand Mining Threatens South Africa’s Coast, Business Report (03-06-2015)

Illegal Sand Mining in South Africa a Report: “Governance of Africa’s Resources Programme, by Romy Chevallier;” All’Africa (12-28-2014)

South Africa Dune Mining Whips Up Sandstorm, CNN (07-09-2012)
For centuries, the massive sand dunes overlooking the warm waters off the South African east coast have created a majestic scenery, acting as a natural wall between the sea and the land environment. In recent years, mining companies have been eager to dig inside these dunes to extract the valuable minerals they contain…

“The Shore Break,” A Movie From Riley Grunenwald; Variety (05-02-2016)
A gorgeous stretch of the Wild Coast is the object of a standoff between corrupt pro-mining forces interested in mining the local beach sand for titanium, and a South African coastal community. The drama is structured around two diametrically opposed protagonists. A film review by Variety…

The Market For African Beach Sand: Who’s Buying, Selling And Mining It? AFK Insider (02-17-2017)

Sand mining decimates African beaches, DW (02-15-2017)

Sand, Rarer Than One Thinks: A UNEP report (GEA-March 2014)
Despite the colossal quantities of sand and gravel being used, our increasing dependence on them and the significant impact that their extraction has on the environment, this issue has been mostly ignored by policy makers and remains largely unknown by the general public.
In March 2014 The United Nations released its first Report about sand mining. “Sand Wars” film documentary by Denis Delestrac – first broadcasted on the european Arte Channel, May 28th, 2013, where it became the highest rated documentary for 2013 – expressly inspired the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to publish this 2014-Global Environmental Alert.

The Conservation Crisis No One Is Talking About, TakePart (09-21-2016)
Beaches around the world are disappearing. No, the cause isn’t sea-level rise, at least not this time. It’s a little-known but enormous industry called sand mining, which every year sucks up billions of tons of sand from beaches, ocean floors, and rivers to make everything from concrete to microchips to toothpaste…

Sand Wars, An Investigation Documentary, By Award-Winning Filmmaker Denis Delestrac (©-2013)
“Sand is the second most consumed natural resource, after water. The construction-building industry is by far the largest consumer of this finite resource. The traditional building of one average-sized house requires 200 tons of sand; a hospital requires 3,000 tons of sand; each kilometer of highway built requires 30,000 tons of sand… A nuclear plant, a staggering 12 million tons of sand… “Denis Delestrac (©-2013).

Sand Mining in South Africa: Learn More, Coastal Care

Global Sand Mining: Learn More, Coastal Care

Beach and dune sand mining, South Africa. © Photo courtesy of: Denis Delestrac
As of 2011-2012, when investigative filmmaker Denis Delestrac and team, were first collecting and unveiling sand mining datas and information from the professionals involved, the Sand business was estimated to be a $70 billion industry, worldwide…!—Denis Delestrac (©-2013)

Eyes on the Coast—Video Cameras Help Forecast Coastal Change

Video camera atop a hotel in Madeira Beach, Florida. (Credit: Jenna Brown, St. Petersberg Coastal and Marine Science Center, USGS. Public domain.)


Coastal communities count on beaches for recreation and for protection from large waves, but beaches are vulnerable to threats such as erosion by storms and flooding. Whether beaches grow, shrink, or even disappear depends in part on what happens just offshore. How do features like shifting sandbars affect waves, currents, and the movement of sand from the beach to offshore and back?

If we understand these processes well enough, scientists can include them in computer models of coastal change that can be used to forecast, for example, how the shoreline will react to severe storms and how it could change over years, decades, or even centuries. Coastal communities can use these forecasts to plan for storms, sea-level rise, changes in sand supply, and other threats.

“When a storm is on the way, it’s really powerful to be able to say: Here’s how the water and sand will move,” says Shawn Harrison, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) postdoctoral oceanographer.

That’s why USGS scientists have installed video cameras pointed at beaches on the coast of western Florida and central California. They’re analyzing the videos to measure features of the beach and ocean so they can improve coastal-change forecasts.

In Santa Cruz, California, Harrison and ocean engineer Gerry Hatcher installed two video cameras on the roof of the 10-story hotel, Dream Inn. One camera looks east over Main Beach, and the other south over Cowells Beach. Starting in May 2017, the cameras recorded video of the beach and ocean for 10 minutes every half hour during daylight hours. Selected images are posted online.

Research oceanographers Jenna Brown and Joe Long installed a camera atop the Shoreline Island Resort in Madeira Beach, Florida. That camera has recorded video between sunrise and sunset for 17 minutes every hour since February 2017. The most recent images from Florida are also available online.

Different clues from different views

The Santa Cruz and Madeira Beach websites both display two types of images. A “snapshot” is typically the first frame of a video—just like a still photo. A “time-averaged image” is an average of all the frames in a video. In Santa Cruz, for example, the scientists combine 1,200 frames per video.

A time-averaged image provides several measurements of the coast. Breaking waves produce a band of white in the time-averaged image. A sandbar is probably beneath that bright band, creating a shallow area that causes the waves to break. Dark areas extending out from the shoreline mark rip channels, formed by rip currents. Rip currents are fast, narrow, and often dangerous flows of water moving away from the shore. The line between dry beach sand and wet sand shows the maximum elevation reached by waves, or sunup.

Left: Snapshot of Madeira Beach, Florida, on June 20, 2017. Right: Time-averaged image, created by averaging the intensity of light recorded at each spot, or “pixel,” during the video. The pale band offshore reveals where a sandbar caused waves to break. On the beach, the line between wet and dry sand shows the maximum wave runup during the video.

Cowells Beach in Santa Cruz, California, from a 10-minute video shot on May 6, 2017. Snapshot on the left; time-averaged image on the right.

A time-averaged image from Duck, North Carolina, on September 1, 2015. Dark bands extending offshore from the beach show the rip current channels. Image from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility (Public domain.)

Other image types provide even more information. “Each element in an image, called a pixel, contains color intensity, which can be used to extract information about changes along the coast,” says Brown.

Pixels as scientific instruments

“The pixels in these videos can be used like scientific instruments,” says Harrison. “For example, we can identify an array of pixels and measure changes recorded by those pixels over time.”

Views of Madeira Beach (left) and Cowells Beach (right), showing “pixel instruments” measured during each video. The blue dots mark pixels used by cBathy to estimate water depth. The red, orange, and yellow lines indicate pixels used to measure wave runup on the beach.

USGS scientists use “cBathy,” a computer program which analyzes groups of pixels to detect passing waves, then estimates the water depths, or bathymetry, required to make those waves. Combining results from many pixel groups creates a bathymetry map of the seafloor.

Estimated and measured ocean depths (bathymetry) from Madeira Beach, Florida. Each panel shows same geographic area. m = meters. Left: Snapshot transformed from original oblique camera view to overhead “map” view. Middle: Bathymetry estimated by applying cBathy algorithm to July 2017 video imagery. Right: Bathymetry measured with sonar in February 2017. Despite being based on data collected 5 months apart, both bathymetric images show similar depths and features: a sandbar about 140 meters cross-shore, deepening to a trough at 100 meters, and shallowing to the shoreline at 50 meters. (Credit: Jenna Brown and Joseph Long, USGS. Public domain.)

Scientists have long made measurements at single points and along lines or “transects.” For example, current meters can measure ocean currents at one point, and small boats with sonar can measure water depths along multiple transects.

A video system “is not going to replace any of those [traditional techniques],” says Harrison, “but it lets us do things that we couldn’t do otherwise.” Video cameras can collect data almost continuously over longer periods, and supply more detail over a larger area. During bad weather and high surf the cameras continue recording data, when it would be dangerous to use a boat or personal watercraft.

These camera stations are also much less expensive than traditional oceanographic equipment. “The whole [Santa Cruz] system cost less than $5,000,” says Harrison.

Nuts and bolts

The Santa Cruz camera station includes two cameras in weatherproof cases and a computer in a separate weatherproof box. The computer is smaller than a deck of cards, costs less than a tank of gas, and uses easily replaceable parts. The whole system runs on a rechargeable battery, solar power, or a standard wall outlet.

The small computer or “micro-controller,” at the bottom of this photo controls the Santa Cruz video cameras, processes the images, and stores the data. (Credit: Shawn Harrison and Gerry Hatcher, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, USGS. Public domain.)

The Madeira Beach station is similar but uses a larger computer. Brown built and installed that station months before Hatcher and Harrison started, so she helped them with system design. One of her recommendations was to make a smaller, portable system to capture big storms.

“We have now built a system like ours for Jenna,” says Hatcher, so they can be deployed before a large storm or hurricane. This information will help scientists better understand the impacts of these large storms.

Harrison and Hatcher also got tips from John Stanley, a senior faculty research assistant at Oregon State University (OSU). Stanley helped develop coastal video systems as part of OSU’s Argus Program, which inspired the USGS camera stations.

How it began: Argus

Development of Argus started in the early 1980s under Rob Holman (currently OSU professor emeritus) and his team. After more than 30 years of academic research and commercial applications, in 2016 Holman released the software and shared his expertise with the public under an open source license. The international community of Argus users embraced the move, and created an online knowledge base and software repository at the Coastal Imaging Research Network (CIRN).

“In September 2016, we had an Argus users workshop,” recalls Brown, “and that’s where I met Shawn [Harrison].”

Both Brown and Harrison are CIRN members, and part of the new USGS Remote Sensing Coastal Change project. That project’s leaders include research oceanographer Nathaniel Plant at the USGS Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Nathaniel Plant was one of the original Argus users [when he was a student at OSU], and he wrote a bunch of the original [software],” says Brown. “He helped me get started.”

Participants in the 2016 Argus Workshop at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility in Duck, North Carolina, including many of the scientists named in this article (labeled). Rob Holman (Oregon State University) took the photo with a drone. (Credit: Rob Holman, Oregon State University. Public domain.)

Putting the data to work

Brown is particularly interested in how beaches respond to storms. She compares beach surveys from before and after storms, “but I would really like to capture and examine the processes occurring during the storm.” The Madeira Beach camera station, and the more portable system from Harrison and Hatcher, should enable her to do just that.

Photographs taken during Tropical Storm Colin (left, June 6, 2016), and one day later (right) in the town of St. Pete Beach, Florida. Storm waves eroded the beach and dune, producing a cliff- like feature called a beach scarp. Continuous video collected during a storm could help scientists better understand how this happened. Credit: Jenna Brown, USGS.

Harrison’s focus is on the shape—or morphology—of the beach and the seafloor near the shore. “I’m really interested in how morphology changes the way currents and sediment move,” he says. Harrison specializes in simulating how changes in seafloor morphology—the growth of sandbars, for example—change ocean currents, which reshape the seafloor, and so on. “[The camera system] is a great tool to capture that behavior and to provide data I can use to refine morphodynamic models.”

According to Harrison, those computer models currently oversimplify how waves and currents behave, and how those forces move sediment and change the seafloor. He wants to use data from the videos—especially during a single storm—to improve the models. “We’re able to track the movement of morphological features as they adjust to waves and currents, and that gives us something to shoot for in our model simulations,” Harrison says.

Left: A time-averaged image transformed into a bird’s-eye view of New Zealand’s Raglan Bar delta. CMLB = channel margin linear bar. Analysis of many time-averaged images produced the map at right, which shows the average migration of sandbars over five years.

“Once we get it right in our models, then it could be incorporated into operational coastal hazard forecast models,” Harrison says. These operational forecasts, frequently updated like weather forecasts, can warn coastal communities about potentially hazardous beach and dune erosion. Data from the Madeira Beach video camera are already helping USGS researcher Joe Long fine tune the Total Water Level and Coastal Change Forecast Viewer. The web site displays forecasts for parts of the U.S. coastline using local beach characteristics.

The Total Water Level and Coastal Change Forecast Viewer on June 4, 2016, two days before Tropical Storm Colin was expected to hit Florida. The forecast for June 6 at Treasure Island (blue balloon on map at left) shows total water level (top right) and water height relative to the beach dune (lower right.) (Credit: Joseph Long, St. Petersberg Coastal and Marine Science Center, USGS. Public domain.)

Harrison views the Santa Cruz camera system as both a long-term observatory, and a testbed for new ideas and improving the system. Eventually, similar systems could be used for rapid storm response, and for remote locations like Pacific island atolls or Arctic bluffs that are much harder to access.

Photo from a time-lapse camera on Barter Island, Alaska. A video camera station would capture even more detail about the processes that shape this coast. (View the complete time-lapse sequence.) (Credit: Bruce Richmond, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, USGS. Public domain.)

Original Article, USGS (11-08-2017)