Jun Cheng, Francesca Toledo Cossu, and Ping Wang, 2021. “Factors controlling longshore variations of beach changes induced by Tropical Storm Eta (2020) along Pinellas County beaches, west-central Florida”, Shore & Beach, 89(2), 75-85.
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Factors controlling longshore variations of beach changes induced by Tropical Storm Eta (2020) along Pinellas County beaches, west-central Florida
Jun Cheng,* Francesca Toledo Cossu, and Ping Wang
School of Geosciences, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620, USA
*Corresponding author, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tropical Storm Eta impacted the coast of west-central Florida from 11 November to 12 November 2020 and generated high waves over elevated water levels for over 20 hours. A total of 148 beach and nearshore profiles, spaced about 300 m (984 ft) apart, were surveyed one to two weeks before and one to eight days after the storm to examine the beach changes along four barrier islands, including Sand Key, Treasure Island, Long Key, and Mullet Key. The high storm waves superimposed on elevated water level reached the toe of dunes or seawalls and caused dune erosion and overwash at various places. Throughout most of the coast, the dune, dry beach, and nearshore area was eroded and most of the sediment was deposited on the seaward slope of the nearshore bar, resulting in a roughly conserved sand volume above closure depth. The longshore variation of beach-profile volume loss demonstrates an overall southward decreasing trend, mainly due to a southward decreasing nearshore wave height as controlled by offshore bathymetry and shoreline configurations. The Storm Erosion Index (SEI) developed by Miller and Livermont (2008) captured the longshore variation of beach-profile volume loss reasonably well. The longshore variation of breaking wave height is the dominant factor controlling the longshore changes of SEI and beach erosion. Temporal variation of water level also played a significant role, while beach berm elevation was a minor factor. Although wider beaches tended to experience more volume loss from TS Eta due to the availability of sediment, they were effective in protecting the back beach and dune area from erosion. On the other hand, smaller profile-volume loss from narrow beach did not necessarily relate to less dune/ structure damage. The opposite is often true. Accurate evaluation of a storm’s severity in terms of erosion potential would benefit beach management especially under the circumstance of increasing storm activities due to climate change.