Wave, beach and dune interactions in southeastern Australia

A. D. Short, P. A. Hesp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

419 Citations (Scopus)


A morphodynamic classification of surfzones, beaches and dunes of the microtidal, low- to high-energy southeast Australian coast is presented. The first section (A: Waves and beaches) briefly deals with the transformation of deep-water wave energy as it crosses the shelf, nearshore and surfzone. Depending on the deep-water wave characteristics and shelf and inshore morphology, resultant breaker wave energy may be high, moderate or low, and the accompanying beach surfzone morphodynamic state in fine to medium sand beaches either dissipative, intermediate or reflective. Dissipative beaches have wide surfzones with shore parallel bar(s) and channel(s) and predominantly shore-normal circulation; intermediate beaches are characterised by rip circulation, crescentic-transverse bars and megacusps; and reflective beaches by a barless surfzone and steep, cusped or bermed beach. Each beach form has a characteristic level of beach stability, zone of sediment storage and mode of beach and dune erosion. Landward aeolian sediment transport of swash-deposited sand (Section B) is dependent on the subaerial beach topography and the aerodynamic flow regime across that topography. Characteristic profile shapes are ascribed to each beach type (dissipative, intermediate and reflective). Aeolian sand transport rates are potentially highest on dissipative beaches, moderate on intermediate beaches and lowest on reflective beaches. These rates determine the potential size of foredunes which are correspondingly largest on dissipative beaches and smallest on reflective beaches. The combination of mode and frequency of beach/dune erosion, rates of aeolian sand transport, and foredune volume and morphology provide an explanation of the nature and morphology of landward-occurring, large-scale dune systems. Dissipative beaches are frequently characterised by large-scale transgressive dune sheets; intermediate, by a trend from large-scale parabolic dune systems (high-wave energy) to small-scale blowouts (low-wave energy); and reflective beaches by minimal dune development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-284
Number of pages26
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1982
Externally publishedYes


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