Rapid erosion of a small southern California beach fill Academic Article uri icon


  • A winter storm eroded a small (160,000 m(3)) beach fill at Torrey Pines State Beach in southern California. The fill, constructed in April 2001, was a 600-m long flat-topped berm, extending from a highway revetment seaward about 80 m, terminating in a 2-m tall, near-vertical scarp. The size distributions of the preexisting and fill beach sand were similar (median similar to0.2 mm). A total of 56 cross-shore transects were surveyed between the revetment and 8 m water depth biweekly along 2.7 km of the beach centered on the fill area. During summer and fall, the incident significant wave heights measured 1 km offshore of the fill usually were below I m, the scarp was not overtopped, and the fill did not change greatly. The beach face alongshore of the fill accreted, consistent with the usual seasonal cycle in southern California. During a storm (3 m significant wave height) in late November, erosion began when wave uprushes overtopped the scarp and reached the relatively flat elevated fill, where the overwash flowed alongshore to initially small depressions that channeled the flow seawards. The offshore flow rapidly deepened and widened the channels, which maintained steep vertical faces and eroded by slumping. Thirty hours after the storm began, the shoreward end of the eroded channels had retreated to the highway revetment, leaving uneroded sand peninsulas protruding seawards similar to50 m from the revetment and elevated similar to1.75 m above the surrounding beach. Erosion of the beach adjacent to the fill was much less variable alongshore than within the fill region. During the next few days, the peninsulas eroded almost completely. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V All rights reserved.

publication date

  • February 2005