A beach morphology monitoring program was initiated during summer 1997 along the Columbia River littoral cell (CRLC) on the coasts of northwest Oregon and southwest Washington, USA. This field program documents the seasonal through interannual morphological variability of these high-energy dissipative beaches over a variety of spatial scales. Following the installation of a dense network of geodetic control monuments, a nested sampling scheme consisting of cross-shore topographic beach profiles, three-dimensional topographic beach surface maps, nearshore bathymetric surveys, and sediment size distribution analyses was initiated. Beach monitoring is being conducted with state-of-the-art real-time kinematic differential global positioning system survey methods that combine both high accuracy and speed of measurement. Sampling methods resolve variability in beach morphology at alongshore length scales of approximately 10 meters to approximately 100 kilometers and cross-shore length scales of approximately 1 meter to approximately 2 kilometers. During the winter of 1997/1998, coastal change in the US Pacific Northwest was greatly influenced by one of the strongest El Niño events on record. Steeper than typical southerly wave angles resulted in alongshore sediment transport gradients and shoreline reorientation on a regional scale. The La Niña of 1998/1999, dominated by cross-shore processes associated with the largest recorded wave year in the region, resulted in net beach erosion along much of the littoral cell. The monitoring program successfully documented the morphological response to these interannual forcing anomalies as well as the subsequent beach recovery associated with three consecutive moderate wave years. These morphological observations within the CRLC can be generalized to explain overall system patterns; however, distinct differences in large-scale coastal behavior (e.g., foredune ridge morphology, sandbar mor-phometrics, and nearshore beach slopes) are not readily explained or understood.
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Vol. 2005 • No. 213