Articles | Volume 12, issue 8
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 2515–2527, 2012
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 2515–2527, 2012

Research article 13 Aug 2012

Research article | 13 Aug 2012

Decadal trends in beach morphology on the east coast of South Africa and likely causative factors

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 Stormwater & Catchment Management, P.O. Box 680, Durban, South Africa

Abstract. Sandy shorelines are dynamic with constant changes that can cause hazards in developed areas. The causes of change may be either natural or anthropogenic. This paper evaluates evidence for shoreline changes and their causative factors using a case study on the east coast of South Africa. Beach morphology trends were found to be location-specific, but overall the beaches show a receding trend. It was hypothesized that wave, tide, sea level and wind trends as well as anthropogenic influences are causative factors, and their contributions to shoreline changes were evaluated. Maximum significant wave heights, average wave direction, peak period and storm event frequencies all show weak increasing trends, but only the increases in peak period and wave direction are statistically significant. The chronic beach erosion cannot be attributed to wave climate changes since they are still too small to explain the observations. Instead, the impacts of sea level rise and reductions in the supply of beach sediments are suggested as the main causative factors. The analysis also identifies a trend in the frequency of severe erosion events due to storms that coincide with a 4.5-yr extreme tide cycle, which demonstrates the potential impact of future sea level rise.