Sea level anomalies exacerbate beach erosion

Ethan J. Theuerkauf, Antonio B. Rodriguez, Stephen R. Fegley, Richard A. Luettich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sea level anomalies are intra-seasonal increases in water level forced by meteorological and oceanographic processes unrelated to storms. The effects of sea level anomalies on beach morphology are unknown but important to constrain because these events have been recognized over large stretches of continental margins. Here, we present beach erosion measurements along Onslow Beach, a barrier island on the U.S. East Coast, in response to a year with frequent sea level anomalies and no major storms. The anomalies enabled extensive erosion, which was similar and in most places greater than the erosion that occurred during a year with a hurricane. These results highlight the importance of sea level anomalies in facilitating coastal erosion and advocate for their inclusion in beach-erosion models and management plans. Sea level anomalies amplify the erosive effects of accelerated sea level rise and changes in storminess associated with global climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5139-5147
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 28 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • barrier island
  • beach erosion
  • climate change
  • coastal management
  • sea level anomaly
  • sea level rise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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