Abstract

The sandy littoral of Sète, with its barred shoreface, is one of the three studied sites of the thematic action “Morphodynamics of sandy beaches” of the French Programme National d’Environnement Côtier (PNEC), selected because of its microtidal wave-dominated characteristics and of the long time series of available data. During the PNEC program, the principal results obtained show that the morphological evolution of the sedimentary bars can be synthesized according to two conceptual models, in reaction to hydrodynamic variability. (1) The model of “oscillation around a position of equilibrium” (O.P.E) defines the usual mode of behaviour of the bars, with an alternation of shoreward and seaward movements. The bars migrate seaward during storms and shoreward when the energy conditions decrease. This oscillation is expressed with several rhythms. (i) During the main phases of the bar evolution, which are long periods during which the bars present the same geometrical characters. The passage from one phase to the other occurs when a 4 m significant height storm happens. (ii) At the seasonal scale, which is well illustrated by the behaviour of the inner bar: during summer, when the conditions of agitation are weak, the bar aggregates punctually with the shore; when the conditions of agitation increase in autumn the inner bar is reformed and moved seaward. (2) The model of “Net Offshore Migration” (N.O.M) points to the tendency of the bars to retreat under the effect of paroxysmal events (storms with a 20 to 50 yrs return time) being a prelude to their degeneration. From the former position of equilibrium, the outer bar strongly moves seaward and drops following heavy swell. Instead of moving to the coast according to the O.P.E model, the outer bar loses material that is recovered by the inner bar and degenerates. The inner bar, exposed to the swell, then moves seaward to replace the initial outer bar, a new inner bar being created at the coast. A few years after, the standard pattern is restored. These results are compared with those described in the literature.

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