Glossary of Beach and Coastal Terms
Accretion: Slow addition to land by
Amplitude: Wave height.
Artificial Reef: Material of
any sort manually placed on the ocean floor
to create an ecological habitat.
Bar: An offshore ridge or mound
of sand, gravel, or other unconsolidated
material which is submerged, at least at
Bathymetry: The measurement of
depths of water in oceans, seas and lakes.
Also the information derived from such
Beach Face: The section of the
beach normally exposed to the action of wave
Beach Nourishment: The process
of replenishing a beach by artificial means.
Beach Profile: A cross-section
taken perpendicular to a given beach
contour; the profile may include the face of
a dune or seawall.
Berm: On a beach: a nearly
horizontal plateau on the beach face or
backshore, formed by the deposition of beach
Breaker: A wave that has become
so steep that the crest of the wave topples
forward, moving faster than the main body of
Breaker Depth: The still water
depth at the point where the wave breaks.
Breakwater: A structure
protecting a harbor, anchorage, or basin
Bypassing: Hydraulic or
mechanical movement of sand from the
accreting updrift side to the eroding
downdrift side of an inlet or harbor
Coast: A strip of land of
indefinite length and width that extends
from the seashore inland to the first major
change in terrain features.
Coastal Management: The
development of a strategic, long-term and
sustainable land use policy, sometimes
called shoreline management.
Coastal Processes: Collective
term covering the action of natural forces
on the shoreline and the nearshore seabed.
Coastline: Technically, the
line that forms the boundary between the
coast and the shore.
Cobble: Rounded rocks ranging
in diameter from approximately 64 to 256 mm.
Cross-Shore: Perpendicular to
Current: That portion of a
stream of water which is moving with
velocity much greater than the average or in
which the progress of water is principally
Deep Water: Deep-water
conditions are said to exist when the surf
waves are not affected by conditions on the
Depth: Vertical distance from
still-water level to the bottom.
Detached Breakwater: A
breakwater without any coastal connection to
Erosion: Wearing away of the
land by natural forces (e.g. wave action,
tidal currents or wind).
Escarpment: A more or less
continuous line of cliffs or steep slopes
facing in one general direction which are
caused by erosion or faulting.
Estuary: (1) The part of a
river that is affected by tides.
(2) The region near a river mouth in which
the fresh water of the river mixes with the
salt water of the sea.
Feeder Beach: An artificially
widened beach serving to nourish downdrift
Fetch: The length of
unobstructed open sea surface across which
the wind can generate waves.
Geotube: A long fabric cylinder
filled with sediment used as a wall to
retain sediment behind.
Groin: A shore protection
structure.It is narrow in width (measured
parallel to the shore) and its length may
vary from tens to hundreds of meters (
extending from a point landward of the
shoreline out into the water). Groins may be
classified as permeable (with openings
thorough them) or impermeable ( a solid or
nearly solid structure through which sand
Hard Defenses: A general term
applied to impermeable coastal defense
structures of concrete, timber, steel, and
masonry, which reflect a high proportion of
incident wave energy.
Headland: A land mass having a
Higher High Water (HHW): The
higher of two high waters if any tidal day.
Incident Wave: A wave moving
Inter-tidal: The zone between
the high and low water marks.
Jetty: On open seacoasts, a
structure extending into a body of water to
direct and confine the stream or tidal flow
to a selected channel or to prevent
Kelp Bed: An area, typically
nearshore, where substantial concentrations
of kelp occur.
Littoral Current: A current
running parallel to the beach and generally
caused by waves striking the shore at an
Littoral Drift: The sedimentary
material moved in the littoral zone under
the influence of waves and currents.
Littoral Transport: The
movement of littoral drift in the littoral
zone by waves and currents.
Littoral Zone: An indefinite
zone extending seaward from the shoreline to
just beyond the breaker zone.
Longshore Current: A current
located in a surf zone, moving generally
parallel to the shoreline, generated by
waves breaking at an angle with the
shoreline, also called alongshore current.
Longshore Drift: Movement of
sediments approximately parallel to the
Nearshore: In beach
terminology, an indefinite zone extending
seaward from the shoreline well beyond the
Nourishment: The process of
replenishing a beach. It may be brought
about naturally, by longshore transport, or
artificially by the deposition of dredged
Recession: A continuing
landward movement of the shoreline.
Reef: A ridge of rock of other
material lying just below the surface of the
Revetment: A facing of stone to
protect an embankment, or shore structure
against erosion by wave action or currents.
Run-up: The rush of water up a
structure or beach on the breaking of a wave
Sandspit: A small sandy point
of land or a narrow shoal projecting into a
body of water from the shore.
Scour Protection: Protection
against erosion of the seabed in front of
Seawall: A structure built
along a portion of a coast primarily to
prevent erosion and other damage by wave
action. Generally more massive and capable
of resisting greater wave forces than a
Sediment Source: A point or
area on a coast from which beach material
arises, such as an eroding cliff or river
Sediment Transport: The main
agencies by which sedimentary materials are
moved are: gravity; running water (rivers
and streams); ice (glaciers); wind and the
sea (currents and longshore drift).
Shoal: 1. noun - A detached
area of any material except rock or coral 2.
verb - To become shallow gradually.
Shoreline Management: The
development of strategic, long-term and
sustainable coastal defense and land-use
policy within a sediment cell.
Slough: A minor sluggish
waterway or estuarial creek, tributary to,
or connecting, other streams or bodies of
water, whose course is usually through
lowlands or swamps.
Soft Structure: Coastal
structure composed of geotextile material
rather than steel, rock, or concrete.
Surf: The wave activity in the
area between the shoreline and the outermost
limits of breakers.
Surf Zone: The zone of wave
action extending from the water line (which
varies with tide, surge, set-up, etc.) out
to the most seaward point of the zone
(breaker zone) at which waves approaching
the coastline commence breaking, typically
in water depths between 5 and 10 meters
Toe: The lower front (seaward)
portion of a coastal structure.
Tidal Current: The alternating
horizontal movement of water associated with
the rise and fall of the tide caused by
astronomical tide-producing forces.
Tombolo: A bar or spit that
connects or "ties" an island to the mainland
or to another island.
Wetland: An area of water
supporting a wildlife habitat, sometimes