Barnard, P.L.; Hansen, J.E., and Erikson, L.H., 2012. Synthesis study of an erosion hot spot, Ocean Beach, California (USA).
A synthesis of multiple coastal morphodynamic research efforts is presented to identify the processes responsible for persistent erosion along a 1-km segment of 7-km-long Ocean Beach in San Francisco, California. The beach is situated adjacent to a major tidal inlet and in the shadow of the ebb-tidal delta at the mouth of San Francisco Bay. Ocean Beach is exposed to a high-energy wave climate and significant alongshore variability in forcing introduced by varying nearshore bathymetry, tidal forcing, and beach morphology (e.g., beach variably backed by seawall, dunes, and bluffs). In addition, significant regional anthropogenic factors have influenced sediment supply and tidal current strength. A variety of techniques were employed to investigate the erosion at Ocean Beach, including historical shoreline and bathymetric analysis, monthly beach topographic surveys, nearshore and regional bathymetric surveys, beach and nearshore grain size analysis, two surf-zone hydrodynamic experiments, four sets of nearshore wave and current experiments, and several numerical modeling approaches. Here, we synthesize the results of 7 years of data collection to lay out the causes of persistent erosion, demonstrating the effectiveness of integrating an array of data sets covering a huge range of spatial scales. The key findings are as follows: anthropogenic influences have reduced sediment supply from San Francisco Bay, leading to pervasive contraction (i.e., both volume and area loss) of the ebb-tidal delta, which in turn reduced the regional grain size and modified wave focusing patterns along Ocean Beach, altering nearshore circulation and sediment transport patterns. In addition, scour associated with an exposed sewage outfall pipe causes a local depression in wave heights, significantly modifying nearshore circulation patterns that have been shown through modeling to be key drivers of persistent erosion in that area.