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South Carolina Coastal Erosion Study


Much of the South Carolina coast is heavily developed, supporting not only large local populations and infrastructure, but also large tourism industries. Local economies are closely tied to the health of the shoreline and are greatly impacted by damage and loss of property due to coastal erosion and severe storm events. In order to successfully manage and mitigate coastal resources, an understanding of the factors controlling coastal erosion, sediment transport, and vulnerability to coastal change must be developed.

Figure showing the location of South Carolina Coastal Erosion Study
Figure 1. Location of South Carolina Coastal Erosion Study and
map of geophysical tracklines. Study area is outlined in red.(Figure
modified from Baldwin, 2000). Click on image to view larger version.

In 1999, the USGS, in partnership with the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, began to investigate processes affecting shoreline change along the northern South Carolina coast, focusing on the Grand Strand and adjacent Long Bay region Figure 1. Coastal areas along the eastern United States with limited sediment supply, similar to areas offshore of South Carolina, are shown to be strongly influenced by the geologic framework of older strata underlying the shoreface and inner-shelf. Based on these findings, the South Carolina Coastal Erosion Study examines how historical and pre-historical geology and present-day physical processes influence coastal erosion patterns and the location of offshore sediment sources.

The primary objectives of this research effort are:

  1. to provide a regional synthesis of the shallow geologic framework of the inner continental shelf and shoreface and define its role in coastal evolution and modern beach behavior;
  2. to provide a synthesis of the sedimentologic framework in the onshore regions of the study area;
  3. to identify net sediment transport pathways and construct a regional sediment budget;
  4. to identify and model the hydrodynamic and sediment transport processes shaping the modern shoreline.
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