Computer models can help coastal managers making better decisions


Coastal erosion costs Florida millions a year

Coastal erosion costs Florida 105 million in 5 year

A computer model can help coastal managers better understand the long-term effects of major storms, sea-level rise and beach restoration activities and possibly save millions of dollars.

Researchers used erosion data following tropical storms and hurricanes that hit Santa Rosa Island, off Florida’s Panhandle, and sea-level rise projections to predict beach habitat changes over the next 90 years. But they say their model can be used to inform nourishment decisions at any beach.

Storms and erosion

Since the first project of its kind in the U.S. at Coney Island, N.Y., in 1922, coastal managers have used beach nourishment – essentially importing sand to replace sediment lost through storms or erosion – to restore damaged beaches, but it is laborious and expensive. Adding to coastal managers’ headaches, the offshore sand used for such ventures is running short.


Large storms produce strong undertows that can strip beaches of sand. By predicting how undertows interact with shorelines, researchers can build  and engineer other soft solutions to create more robust and sustainable beaches.

Formulation of the Undertow Using Linear Wave Theory,” a new paper in the journal Physics of Fluids, clears up some of the controversy in undertow modeling, so planners can assess erosion threats faster and more accurately.

$105 million in five years

Florida has allotted $37 million in state money for beach nourishment projects this fiscal year, which ends June 30 2014, and has appropriated almost $105 million over the past five years, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

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