Evaluating proxies for estimating subaerial beach volume change across increasing time scales and various morphologies

Ethan J. Theuerkauf, Antonio B. Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Proxies, such as changes in beach profiles and shoreline positions, are commonly used in management and research for estimating changes in subaerial beach volume; however, the accuracy of these proxies across increasing time scales and complex morphologies is unclear. Volume changes associated with along-beach morphologic variability may not be captured well by changes in profiles, while volume changes associated with across-beach morphologic variability may not be captured well by measuring shoreline change. This study assesses the impacts of morphologic variations, associated with beach cusps and nourishment material, on volume change estimates from profiles and shoreline change at 0.5 to 3.5year time periods. Results indicate that profiles spaced≥150m apart and the shoreline-change proxy will likely estimate volume change inaccurately over periods≤1year at beaches that are consistently eroding or accreting and contain cusps. However, over longer time periods (1-3.5years), estimates of volume change from both proxies improved at those types of beaches. Volume changes at the edges of nourishment areas are not captured well by profiles. When the nourishment material is graded to a ramped morphology, which minimizes across-beach morphologic variability, the shoreline-change proxy does accurately estimate volume changes. Both proxies estimate volume changes inaccurately at beaches where volume changes oscillate between erosion and accretion on both short and long time scales because the magnitude of small-scale changes in volume from the formation and erosion of morphologic features, such as cusps and berms, will always be similar to the longer-term net volume change. This study suggests that decadal records of shoreline change, which are commonly developed using aerial photography, can be used to help identify the best proxy for estimating volume change; however, recent anthropogenic modifications that impact patterns of beach sedimentation, including nourishment, terminal groins, and inlet-channel dredging, makes decadal records less useful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)593-604
Number of pages12
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Beach morphologic variability beach cusps
  • Beach nourishment
  • Beach profiles
  • Shoreline change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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