Predicted Responses of Beaches, Bays, and Inner-Shelf Sand Supplies to Potential Sea Level Rise (0.5-1.0 m) in Three Small Littoral Subcells in the High-Wave-Energy Northern Oregon Coast, USA

  •  Curt D. Peterson    
  •  Debra L. Doyle    
  •  Charles L. Rosenfeld    
  •  Kara E.P. Kingen    


Three small subcells (Nehalem, Tillamook, and Netarts) totaling ~55 km shoreline length in the high-wave energy northern Oregon coast are evaluated for potential beach sand loss from sea level rise (SLR) of 0.5–1.0 m during the next century. The predicted erosion is based on beach sand displacement from the narrow beaches (average ~120 m width) to increased submarine accommodation spaces in the innermost-shelf (to 30 m water depth) and in the subcell estuaries (Tillamook Bay, Netarts Bay, and Nehalem Bay), following predicted near-future SLR. Beach sand sources from local rivers, paleo-shelf deposits, and/or sea cliff retreat are discriminated by distinctive heavy-mineral tracers. Modern beach sands in the study area are derived from river sand (~75 %) and paleo-shelf sand (~25 %). The supplies of paleo-shelf sand to the beaches have largely diminished in late-Holocene time. The river-enriched beach sands have been transported offshore to the inner-shelf (0–50 m water depth) to fill increasing accommodation space in the inner-shelf during latest-Holocene conditions of relative SLR (1.0 m ka-1). To evaluate the beach sand response to future SLR, representative beach profiles (n=17) and intervening beach segment distances were compiled to yield beach sand volumes above mean lower low water (MLLW) or shallower wave-cut platforms ‘bedrock’. Across-shore cross-sectional areas, as averaged for each subcell, are as follows; Cannon Beach (304 m2), Tillamook (683 m2), and Netarts (227 m2). Littoral sand displacements to the adjacent innermost-shelf (to 30 m water depth) and the marine-dominated areas of the three estuaries are based on assumed vertical sand accretion rates of 1.0 m per century and a conservative value of 0.5 m per century. The filling of such submarine accommodation spaces will displace all active-beach sand reserves in all three subcells for either the 1.0 m or 0.5 m thickness accommodation space scenarios. Large beach sand deficits, primarily from the filling of offshore accommodation spaces, could cause further retreat of soft-shorelines, including barrier spit and beach plain/dune deposits, in the Tillamook subcell (150-280 m) and in the southern half of the Netarts subcell (370-770 m). The accommodation space approach used to predict beach sand volume loss from future SLR should have broad applicability in complex littoral systems worldwide.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1916-9779
  • ISSN(Online): 1916-9787
  • Started: 2009
  • Frequency: semiannual

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