Articles | Volume 12, issue 1
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 11–22, 2012
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 11–22, 2012

Research article 02 Jan 2012

Research article | 02 Jan 2012

Shoreline recovery from storms on the east coast of Southern Africa

S. Corbella1,2 and D. D. Stretch1 S. Corbella and D. D. Stretch
  • 1Centre for Research in Environmental, Coastal & Hydrological Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 4041, South Africa
  • 2eThekwini Municipality, Coastal Engineering & Drainage Unit, P.O. Box 680, Durban, South Africa

Abstract. Episodic extreme waves due to sea storms can cause severe coastal erosion. The recovery times of such events are important for the analysis of risk and coastal vulnerability. The recovery period of a storm damaged coastline represents a time when the coastline is most vulnerable and nearby infrastructure is at the greatest risk. We propose that identification of the beach recovery period can be used as a coastal management tool when determining beach usage. As a case study, we analyse 37 yr of beach profile data on the east coast of South Africa. Considering beach length and cross-sectional area, we establish a global recovery period and rate and identify the physical characteristics of the coastlines that either accelerate or retard recovery. The beaches in the case study were found to take an average of two years to recover at a rate of approximately 90 m3 m−1 yr−1. Beach profiles with vegetated dunes recovered faster than urbanized beaches. Perpendicular beach structures have both positive and negative effects on beach recovery. Coastlines with rock outcrops in the surf zone tend to recover slowly and long-term sediment loss was identified in cases where storm damaged beaches have not recovered to pre-erosion levels.