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Definition of a Coast
The coast is a narrow strip of land that borders between
the continental landmass and the sea, sometimes
referring to as the shorezone. The shorezone is a zone
of high-energy geomorphic system where wave energy
is dissipated (absorbed).
The shorezone constitutes a landscape of small height
and width but circumscribes the continents and accounts
for less than 10% of the earth's land surface.
Factors that Determine the Nature of the Coast
Coasts are dynamic and are continuously changing – some are
retreating under waves action and others are advancing under
waves deposition. Again, there are many different types of coast-
steep, gentle, sandy and rocky.
The character of a coast may result from two or more of the
nature of the rocks forming the coast (the composition of rocks).
slope of the coast
changing in the level of the land or sea;
the effects of glaciers
the activity of man
The study of the above factors are necessary since they help us
to determine types of processes and the character of coastal
changes; changes are important indicators that help us to put in
place sustainable measures to protect the coast.
The action of waves determines the strength at which waves can
cause either erosion or deposition. Generally strong waves are
able to cause severe erosion of the coast.
Nature of rocks forming the coast (the composition of
From weathering, we said that the ability of rock to disintegrate
or decompose largely depends on the minerals forming the rock.
Hard minerals forming a rock are less susceptible to weathering
and subsequently to erosion; Rocks that compose soft minerals
(carbonate minerals) are more susceptible to agents of erosion.
Slope of the Coast
The uneven nature of the land surface results in slopes. Usually,
steep slopes are determined by the geological nature of the coast.
The rate at which the slopes change by external geomorphic
geologic factors also influence the nature of surface and
underground flow which may cause erosion, solution, etc. all
these factors are potential factors in determining the changing
character of the coast.
Volcanic activity result in the creation of different types of volcanic
landforms within the ocean and along the coast which influence
the morphology/slopes of the coast.
Coral Reef is a ridge or elevated part of a relatively shallow area
of the seafloor, approaching the sea's surface. It is formed by a
rocklike accumulation of calcium-containing exoskeletons of
coral animals, calcareous red algae, and mollusks. Fringing
reefs extend outwards from the shore of an island or mainland.
A shallow lagoon usually occurs between the coast and the
outer edge of the reef.
Barrier reefs occur farther offshore, with a channel or lagoon
between reef and shore.
Atolls are coral islands, typically consisting of a narrow,
horseshoe-shaped reef enclosing a shallow lagoon. The various
types of coral reefs formed near and along the coast determine
or influence the nature of the coast.
Coastal glaciers have significant effects on coastal landforms. The
effects of glacial erosion and deposition create different erosional
and depositional landforms that continuously modify or change the
character of the coast.
The Effects of Human
The effects of human activity on the coast cannot be
Human activities such as dredging of costal zones to create
artificial harbours, offshore oil drilling, exploitation of coastal
wetlands, sand-wining, and coastal tourism are some of the
important factors that affect coastal landforms and lead to coastal
MOVEMENT OF SEAWATER:
Waves and how they are formed.
Waves are caused by the activity of the wind upon the water
surface. In this case the water particles in the open sea move in
enclosed circular orbits in the upper plane as shown in both fig1 (i)
and fig.3 below.
The wind, which is shown on four layers, fig. 1 (i) below, blows
over the sea surface. The surface exerts a frictional drag on the
bottom of the layer, and this layer exerts a frictional drag on the
layer below it, and so on. The top layer has the least drag exerted
on it which means that the layers of the air move forward at
different speeds. The air tumbles forward and finally develops a
circular motion. This motion exerts downwards pressure (DP) on
the surface at its front and an upward pressure (UP) at its rear,
(fig. 1 (ii), below. The surface begins to take on the form of a
Fig 1 (i) and (ii) show the initial process of how waves are
As the activity of the wind intensifies the waves begin to grow
Fig. 2. (i& ii) shows the wind pressing on the back of a developing
wave, thus causing it to steep.
The back of the wave tumbles forward but it moves back later and
slows the forward movement of the front of the wave. This causes
the wave to grow bigger.
Figure 1. Fully developed wave and its main components. Any particle of
water moves forward in a circular pattern. It is therefore the waves form
which moves and not the water.
The main characteristics of waves are:
Swell is the waves in the offshore and represents the
transmission of energy by the wind. The swell is created as wind
shear stress is applied to the foreshore.
Wave size (height and wave length) is a function of wind velocity
and duration of wind from a constant direction. The fetch is the
length of water over which the wind is passing. Therefore the
large, long duration storms produce the largest waves, on the
average 15 m in height, but sometimes could reach up to 34 m.
Surf. Surf is breaking waves in the shorezone as the crests of
waves pass by. As waves drag on the sea floor in the foreshore,
the waves decelerate becoming asymmetric, shorter and higher
and steeper until they are unstable and break to form surf.
Fig. 4 Diagram showing the effects of wind action on sea surface
Waves as Agents of Erosion.
Waves erosion consists of many processes; however
the main processes are:
corrosion, attrition, hydraulic action, abrasion and
Abrasion (Corrasion)- It is a process whereby boulders,
pebbles and sand are hurled against the base of a cliff by
breaking waves and this causes undercutting and rock
break up. What undergo especially vigorous destruction are
the shores, headlands composed of sedimentary rocks.
Hydraulic process. It occurs when water thrown against a
cliff face by breaking waves causes air in cracks and
crevices to become suddenly compressed. When the
waves retreat the air expands, often explosively. The
explosive action causes the rocks to shatter as stresses are
built within rocks.
Attrition. Boulders and pebbles dashed against the shore are
themselves broken into finer and finer particles.
Longshore drift. Associated with the above processes is longshore
drift: this is movement of near-shore waves that is parallel to the
shore. A typical drift of 80-100 cm/sec can transport more than
Thus the destructive work of the sea becomes particularly
noticeable and active in the littoral zone which is immediately
correlated with the shore and the near shoreline of the sea floor.
Erosional Features produced by waves action. Waves action
results in the formation of diverse coastal features. Knowing the
various types coastal features would help you to understand the
types of coastal processes being taken place and the physical-
geographical characteristics of the coast.
The destructive activity of the sea encourages jointing which is
typical of most rocks. The water, in the time of very severe storms,
penetrates into all the fissures and crevices in rocks, widens them
and compresses the air contained in them. On the recession of
the wave the compressed air expands with the force of an
explosion and within a very short time, thus causing an additional
destructive effect. When the steepness of the bank slope and that
of the adjoining subsurface slope is sufficiently marked, maximum
destructive influence is confined to the foot of the slope, where
gradually a wave-cut notch or recess with a hanging ledge of
rocks is formed.
A gradual increase of the wave-cut recess finally results in that the
rocks hanging over it collapse, and the bank once more acquires
the form of a precipitous bluff called a cliff (from the German knif,
Later, the destructive effect of the waves is further enhanced by
the presence of fragmental material at the basis of the cliff, This
again results in a gradual formation of a new, wave-cut recess
over which, at a certain moment, the rocks will also collapse.
The rocks of some cliffs are in layers which slope landwards. In
other cliffs the rock layers slope seawards and blocks of rock
loosened by erosion easily fall into the sea. These cliffs are often
very steep and overhanging. Landslides are quite common on
cliffs more especially on those formed of alternate layers of
pervious and impervious rocks.
Waves impact on land margin causes waves erosion which leads
to undercutting of lower parts of the cliff; as a result, cliff is
produced. Wave- cut platform develops, as the cliff is push back.
Fig. 5 below illustrates the stages in the development cliff and
Fig.5. Stages in the development of a cliff and wave-cut platform
Caves, Arches and Stacks, Headland
These are minor features produced by waves action during the
process of cliff formation.
A cave. A cave develops along the line of weakness at the base of
a cliff which has been subjected to prolong waves action. It is
cylindrical tunnel which extends into the cliff, following the line of
weakness, and whose diameter decreases from the entrance.
Blow-hole. If a joint extends from the end of the tunnel to the top
of the cliff, this becomes enlarged in time and finally opens out on
the cliff top to form blowhole. The roof of the cave ultimately
collapses and a long narrow sea inlet forms.
Arch. Caves which develop on either side of a headland (an
elongated strip of land that joins the mainland) such that they
ultimately join together, gives rise to a natural arch (looking like a
When the arch collapses, the end of the headland stands up as a
stack. In time this is completely removed by wave erosion
Fig. 6. Formation of natural stack, arch and bay along a coast
Fig. 6. Diagram showing stages in the development of a cave,
blowhole and an inlet.
Fig 6.Diagram showing coastal erosional features.
Depositional landforms are formed by sediment (mostly sand) delivered by
rivers and, to a much lesser extent, generated by headland erosion
spits and bars
The most important factor in beach formation is by waves action. Average wave
energy is sufficient to transport sand from the shallow seabed and move it on-
shore. Higher gradient gravel, boulder or shingle beaches occur at the base of
headlands and behind sandy beaches, that is, where there is higher wave
energy capable of removing sand.
In the formation of beach, sand is carried onshore in the swash whereas the
backwash seeps into the beach and flows seaward with sufficient energy to
suspend and remove only the finer sediments (silt and clay).
Thus, beaches are a lag (interval) deposit of sand drifting along the shore, as
the swash commonly is oblique to the shoreline whereas the backwash is
always directly seaward (down the beach)
Beaches adjust quickly to changes in wave and tidal energy resulting in a
change in beach mass balance (that is, sediment inputs minus sediment
Waves action deposits pebbles, sand and mud along a coast to form a gently
sloping platform, called a beach. The material of which a beach is composed is
transported along a coast by longshore drift.
Beaches usually lie between high and low water levels but storm waves along
some coasts throw pebbles and stones well beyond the normal level reached
by waves at high tide. (Fig. 6.10). The material deposited in this way produces
a ridge called a storm beach.
Wave action in bays is usually not strong because waves action is contained
within a small space and deposition is the dominant action. Beaches called
bay-head beaches develop at the heads of the bays (fig. 6.11). This type of
beach is not common in many African coasts; what we see rather is an opened
Fig 6.10. Features of a beach.
Features of a beach
Diagram showing the action of waves in bays and the formation
and features bay beach
Spit is an extension of a beach from a headland in lower energy
environment (bay or lagoon) in the direction of the longshore drift.
Materials which are eroded from a coast may be carried along the
coast by longshore drift and deposited further along the coast as a
spit. This is likely to happen along indented coasts broken by river
A spit is a low narrow ridge of pebbles or sand joined to the land
at one end with the other end terminating in the sea. A spit
sometimes develops at a headland and projects across a bay as
waves swing into bay obliquely; the end of the spit becomes
curved or hooked.
Fig. A spit formed across the entrance of a bay. The action of waves
sharpens its morphology
These are ridges of sand up to a km wide and 100 m high that
lie parallel to about 13% of the world's coasts. This is very
similar to a spit in its development. Bars consist of sand blown
seaward onto tidal flats during low tide and sand from the
backwash which comes out as the rip current meet the incoming
A common type of bar is that which extends right across a bay.
This starts as a spit growing out from a headland but ultimately it
stretches across the bay to the next headland. This type of bar is
called bar-bar; they do have breaks in them where a tidal action
prevents the bar from being continuous. Bars are interrupted by
tidal inlets so that lagoons behind the bars are subject to tides
Lagoon. When longshore drift operates across rivers mouth a zone of slack
water develops between long shore drift and the river and any material
carried by long shore drift is deposited, This deposited material forms a spit
which may extend across the mouth of the river. When this happens the
river‘s outlet may be diverted or the river may be converted into a lagoon
Mudflats Tides tend to deposit fine silts along gently shelving coasts,
especially in bays and estuaries. The deposition of these silts together with
alluvium, results in the building of a platform of mud called a mud flat. Salt
tolerant plants soon begin to colonise the mud flat which in time becomes a
swamp or marshland. In tropical regions, mud flats often become mangrove
swamps. Mud flats are usually crossed by winding channels keep clear of
vegetation by tidal action. A low tide these channels often contain little, if any
Tombolo is a beach that extends between a headland, or other part of the
mainland, and an island.
It is important to note that factors such as mass wasting, wind erosion and
fluvial processes play important role in the formation of coastal landforms.
Fig. A diagram showing the main depositional features at the coast
Coastal Plain, any flat, low-lying geographical region
near the sea. Example is the Accra Plain.
Geologically, the coastal plain is an extension of the
submerged continental shelf
What makes wind and breaking waves
different from the other agents is that
they can move material against the force
Note that throughout this chapter we will use
the term shoreline to mean the shifting line of
contact between water and land. When we use
the word coastline, or simply coast, we’re
referring to the zone in which coastal processes
operate or have a strong influence.
The coastline includes the shallow water zone in
which waves perform their work, as well as
beaches and cliffs shaped by waves, coastal
dunes, and bays.
Sekondi- Blow hole
Thin flat sheets sedimentary rocks, called beds. These beds form
when sedimentary deposits are buried, compressed, and cemented
together. Sedimentary rock can also form when a solution containing
dissolved minerals evaporates and leaves behind mineral
• Geologically, the coastal plain is an extension
of the submerged continental
The Mesozoic Era, which lasted from
approximately 251 million to 65 million years
ago, may be characterized as the Age of Reptiles
because their greatest development occurred
during this era.
Cave- sedimentary rocks. Physical and
On top of a rock fall- sedimentary-
Swash-from the break off water called
surf- white foamy burbles made up of air
The coast of Bortianor- at low tides
Coast of Bortiano- coastal
degradation- sand winning
Bortiano- coastal pollution through
Group Photo (Gender imbalance)
Elmina coast/erosion is active. the effects
of the waves and wind on the coast
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