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Coastal Processes
Coastal process such as shoreline erosion/accretion, sea level rise, subsidence, storm events (hurricanes, nor’easters), salt water encroachment, and land use changes are constantly altering the face of South Carolina’s coast. Understanding these processes and their influences on the economic and social welfare of South Carolina’s citizens and visitors is critical as the coast accounts for 25% of the state’s population and over 60% of all tourism capital. Additionally, greater understanding of these processes will increase our ability to save lives and develop greater community resilience. The goals of the SCSGE Coastal Processes Program are to: (1) identify and understand the anthropogenic, biological, chemical, geological, and physical processes influencing the coastal zone of South Carolina, (2) communicate and provide relevant information to enhance the ability of coastal managers to make informed management decisions and (3) to educate the public. Contact Susan Lovelace:

Examples of How We Work:

Beach Erosion Research Monitoring (BERM)

The BERM program was developed through the South Carolina Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (SCOCRM) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to document beach system changes and the behavior of beach nourishment projects on an annual basis in order to assist in the management of the state’s beaches through SCOCRM. The data collected through the BERM program is used by coastal managers to document shoreline change (erosion, accretion), the effectiveness of nourishment projects, and locations of sand resources for future nourishment projects. Beach and nearshore profiles have been collected throughout the state over the last decade. The BERM program currently utilizes Real Time Kinematic Global Positioning Systems (RTK-GPS) to survey state beaches, allowing for accuracy at the centimeter level. The program is being integrated into a larger USGS/SCSG cooperative Coastal Erosion Study.

Beach Erosion – Additional Resources:

General Information sites on coastal erosion
This site shows common coastal hazards including a small section on coastal erosion.

Research methods and training
This website covers information on using airborne lasers called LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology to monitor coastal change.

This site, from NOAA, allows users access to LIDAR data collected by the federal government.
This site provides a mapping tool for determining erosional hazards possible via storm effects.

Related topics that may drive erosion
El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) information including how it may affect our region. This process can affect our weather and our wave climate.
Explanation of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which, much like ENSO may affect our local weather and ocean conditions.

Coastal erosion and monitoring efforts
Profile Management and Analysis System (PMAS) A tool set to see change over time at over 400 beaches in SC.
Coastal Research Center monitors the beaches along the Jersey coast and assesses storm susceptibility.

Swash monitoring with cameras

As a subset of the swash program looking to explore coastal hypoxia, two cameras were installed to monitor rapid migration of Singleton and Whitepoint swashes in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The two cameras take multiple images a day and allow for researchers to track the evolution of the swashes which present an erosional hazard to adjacent structures.

Swash Monitoring – Addition Resources:

Videos of White Point and Singleton Swashes

Coastal Hypoxia

Hypoxic conditions (low dissolved oxygen levels that cause physiological stress and potentially death to aquatic organisms) were documented along the nearshore region of Long Bay during the summer of 2004. Long Bay receives large inputs of potentially polluted water via storm water run-off and point sources from the highly urbanized Myrtle Beach area. Hypoxic conditions generally indicate a decline in water quality and potentially lead to harmful algal blooms. These explosions of alga (microscopic aquatic plants) deplete the water column of remaining oxygen and can kill fish and other aquatic life important to recreational and commercial fishing. They may, in extreme cases, have adverse human heath impacts. Sea Grant is currently funding three research projects investigating hypoxia in Long Bay focusing on the physical conditions and mechanisms controlling hypoxia. The coastal hypoxia program also utilizes real-time oceanographic data collected at Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach funded by the Southeast Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing System (SEACOOS). The results of the coastal hypoxia research will potentially identify and isolate the sources of hypoxia, providing coastal managers and policy makers with the information needed to address the sources of pollution directly.

Hypoxia – Additional Resources:
Coastal Monitoring sites:

Information on coastal hypoxia

Rip Current Awareness

The SCSGEP Coastal Processes program is currently implementing a rip current awareness program in South Carolina beachfront communities. This safety and awareness program, entitled “Break the Grip of the Rip”, is a part of a national campaign developed by the NOAA National Weather Service and has been implemented in many coastal areas of the nation by Sea Grant programs. The program in South Carolina is being conducted in partnership with the Charleston (SC) and Wilmington (NC) Weather Forecast Offices of the National Weather Service. The program will focus on saving lives by helping beach goers identify the signs of rip currents, and how to respond if caught in a rip current.

Coastal Energy Initiatives

In 2008 the state of South Carolina began exploring the possibility of offshore wind farms for energy production.  A short time after, the city of North Myrtle Beach began working on plans to have the first offshore wind turbine farm through their chamber of commerce and economic development committee. In partnerships with Santee Cooper, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical college, Coastal Carolina University SC Sea Grant and others, the town began collecting important wind resource data. As a component of this initiative, North Myrtle Beach has installed three educational wind turbines to assess coastal wind resource on land and to raise awareness of wind energy as a possibility in South Carolina.

Coastal Energy Initiatives – Additional Resources:

Wind Turbine installation video

Energy organizations:

Last updated: 12/7/2017 12:34:56 PM
Coastal Processes


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Coastal Science Serving South Carolina
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Turbulent Flow Image Courtesy of Prof. Haris J. Catrakis, University of California, Irvine
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