Almar, R., Coco, G., Bryan, K. R., Huntley, D. A., Short, A. D., & Senechal, N. (2008). Video observations of beach cusp morphodynamics. Marine Geology, 254(3-4), 216-223.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/8286
Beach cusps are a common feature of steep reflective and intermediate beaches. Although many observations of beach cusp spacing exist, there are few observations quantifying the incipient formation, evolution and eventual destruction of these features. Beach cusp morphodynamics were analyzed using a 3-year dataset of video images collected at Tairua Beach (New Zealand). Twenty-four beach cusp episodes were selected to monitor the cycle of beach face changes, from planar to the appearance of the cusp patterns and back to planar again. Observations show that beach cusp disappearance can be ascribed not only to the erosive influence of storms but also to the persistence of accretionary conditions leading to the infilling of beach cusp bays and the development of an alongshore continuous berm. We also report observations of changes in beach cusp spacing over time which can be attributed to the merging of adjacent cusps within the cusp field, with the overall cusp spacing re-adjusting to accommodate the disappearance of a horn. Although the self-organization theory provides a better fit to the data and theory, we were unable to conclusively refute any of the mechanisms causing beach cusp formation since both existing theories, subharmonic standing edge wave and self-organization, can predict the trend in the observed beach cusp spacing. These observations show that initial beach cusp formation primarily occurs (around 70% of the episodes analyzed) under mildly accretionary conditions and, when accretion persists, the pattern disappearance is likely to occur as a result of bay infilling to form a featureless berm.