Coasts, often sedimentary in nature, serve as the dynamic interface between land and sea. While rocky shores exist along much of New England and the West Coast, the preponderance of United States coastal urbanization has occurred along sedimentary coasts. Indeed, much of the outer shoreline along the U.S. East and Gulf coasts is characterized by barrier systems.
The study of sedimentary coasts is a multidiscipline effort involving geologists, physical geographers, and coastal engineers, including hydraulic engineers and fluid hydrodynamicists. These specialities can all be considered under the general field of coastal geomorphology wherein the morphological development of the coast, acting under the influence of winds, waves, currents, and sea-level changes, is the subject of these physical science investigations. Coastal engineering, while primarily a branch of civil engineering, leans heavily upon coastal and geological sciences. Their charge is to address both the natural and human-induced changes in the coastal zone, design structural and nonstructural devices and procedures to intercede against such changes, and evaluate the impacts of proposed solutions on these problem areas.
Because numerous factors govern the development and evolution of coastal areas, solutions devised for one area will often fail if blindly applied to another. This stems from the wide-ranging morphologies and energy conditions found along the coast. Coastal engineering, therefore, is site specific, and project success requires careful collection and evaluation of all pertinent physical data from the geosciences.
The coastal engineering literature is replete with coastal defense or harbor failures due to a lack of understanding of coastal processes. The importance of applied coastal research is clearly demonstrated by harbors built in Dublin, Ireland, during the nineteenth century.
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A review of milestones and changes in geological theory and practice from which modern engineering geology in North America has developed. Five chapters discuss historical events and the contributions of early scientists and engineers; nine chapters review the state of knowledge of dominant geologic processes, phenomena, and specialized principles critical to modern practice; and three chapters discuss geologic environs and the properties of construction materials. Four chapters are devoted to geoscience investigations and related techniques for: initial regional-areal evaluation of conceptual candidate sites (Phase I); selection of preferred-designated sites and design (Phase II); typical kinds of investigations used during project construction (Phase III); and as-built documentation and explorations of the operating or rehabilitation phases. Closing chapters focus on the geoscientist's responsibilities relative to engineering failures, errors of judgment that impact works, litigation, and forensic geoscience. The 34 contributors present extensive case histories applicable worldwide.