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The dynamic nature of coastal morphology and oceanographic conditions poses a particular challenge to transporting personnel and equipment across a land-sea interface, e.g., locating the position of potentially hazardous bathymetric features, and assessing the stability of beach staging areas over time scales ranging from hours to months. In addition, feedbacks among (1) nearshore bathymetry, (2) waves and nearshore circulation, and (3) underlying geology directly affect the morphology of the adjacent beach as well as the shoreline’s response to storm events, resulting in localized erosional “hotspots.” These hotspots are potentially hazardous for equipment and personnel staging along the beach, but they are not easily identifiable from a time-series of aerial photographs alone.

We identify several environmental metrics necessary for the reliable prediction of potential coastal landing and staging hazards, including: (1) nearshore bathymetric gradients, (2) nearshore sediment volume, and (3) changes in shoreline and vegetation line position. Coupled with a quantitative understanding of the relevant coastal processes, these data allow an assessment of potential nearshore bathymetric hazards and realistic predictions of short-term shoreline stability and thus suitability for the temporary staging of equipment and personnel. These metrics are applied to Onslow Beach, North Carolina, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the largest amphibious training ground in the United States, and they are used to identify potential amphibious transit and staging hazards along the entire coastal zone, from the beach out to ~11 m water depth.

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