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Quantitative modeling of coastal processes; a boom or a bust for society?

Orrin Pilkey, Robert Young and Andrew Cooper
Quantitative modeling of coastal processes; a boom or a bust for society? (in Rethinking the fabric of geology, Victor R. Baker (editor), J. W. Harshbarger (editor) and James E. Rogers (editor))
Special Paper - Geological Society of America (September 2013) 502: 135-144


The enormous and growing scale of human intervention in coastal processes is driven by a short-sighted societal desire to protect property in the face of shoreline recession. Underpinning this effort in both the design of engineering interventions and the amelioration of their impacts is the application of numerical models that purport to simulate and predict coastal processes. Coasts are complex systems in which (1) waves, currents, tides, and wind operate on a (2) finite or changing volume of sediment of specific character (3) within a particular geological context. Feedbacks exist within and between these three domains, and all are temporally and spatially variable. The simplifications and assumptions involved in reducing this complexity to equations and numerical models cause a deviation from reality such that models are unable to provide realistic predictions of coastal behavior. Nonetheless (and despite criticism from geologists), models have become entrenched in coastal engineering practice and are now a standard weapon in society's assault on the world's coasts. In this paper, we chart the development of several widely used models, highlight their shortcomings, and speculate on why they remain in use. The disconnect between reality and the mathematics of coastal process models is extreme, and a fundamental reassessment is required.

ISSN: 0072-1077
EISSN: 2331-219X
Serial Title: Special Paper - Geological Society of America
Serial Volume: 502
Title: Quantitative modeling of coastal processes; a boom or a bust for society?
Title: Rethinking the fabric of geology
Author(s): Pilkey, OrrinYoung, RobertCooper, Andrew
Author(s): Baker, Victor R.editor
Author(s): Harshbarger, J. W.editor
Author(s): Rogers, James E.editor
Affiliation: Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duham, NC, United States
Affiliation: University of Arizona, Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, Tucson, AZ, United States
Pages: 135-144
Published: 201309
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 49
Accession Number: 2013-088747
Categories: Geomorphology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 2 tables
Secondary Affiliation: Western Carolina University, USA, United StatesUniversity of Ulster, GBR, United Kingdom
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201352
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