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Marine Geology

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Littoral drift -- Columbia River Estuary (Or. and Wash.), Coast changes -- Oregon, Coast changes -- Washington (State), Beach erosion -- Oregon, Beach erosion -- Washington


The Columbia River Littoral Cell (CRLC) (160 km in length) provides opportunities to compare competing accommodation space relations under different conditions of relative sea level change. The CRLC system includes abundant littoral sand supply from the large Columbia River, late-Holocene prograded beach plains and barrier spits (0.5–5 km in width), two large marine-dominated estuaries (Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor), and a high-wave-energy inner-shelf. Littoral sand accumulation rates in prograded beach plains and barrier deposits are based on paleo-shoreline positions that are dated by great-earthquake catastrophic beach retreat scarps (n = 10) from 0.3 to 5.0 ka. The retreat scarp timelines are mapped in across-shore GPR transects (n = 79), yielding timeline-bounded polygons (n = 247). The polygons are evaluated for littoral sand volume and bounding ages, yielding volume accretion rates (m3 ka−1), which are summed for the four CRLC subcells; Clatsop Plains (27.4 × 106 m3 ka−1), Long Beach (19.8 × 106 m3 ka−1), Grayland Plains (15.9 × 106 m3 ka−1), North Beaches (11.7 × 106 m3 ka−1). Major submarine sinks of littoral sand, including the inner-shelf and large marine-dominated estuaries, are evaluated for increased littoral sand accommodation space that could result from potential future sea level rise of 1, 2 and 3 m during the next century or two. The estimated beach and nearshore sand erosion needed to fill the increased submarine accommodation space from a 2.0 m rise in relative sea level would result in averaged beach retreat values of ~0.7 km (Clatsop Plains), ~1.2 km (Long Beach), and ~ 1.3 km (Grayland Plains), about 30–50% larger than previous estimates based on the Brunn method. These catastrophic shoreline retreat distances (0.7–1.3 km) represent 25–50% of the present widths of prograded barrier spits and beach plains. They serve as warnings about future catastrophic beach erosion resulting from potential future SLR in other similar barrier spit and beach plain shorelines worldwide.


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