U.S. East Coast beaches suffering erosion

Feb. 23, 2011 at 5:41 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- An analysis of 150 years of coastal changes shows 68 percent of beaches in the U.S. New England and Mid-Atlantic regions are eroding, a government report says.

Scientists studied more than 650 miles of the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts for the U.S. Geological Survey and found the average rate for beaches suffering erosion was 1.6 feet per year, a USGS release reported Wednesday.

The most extreme case of beach erosion found exceeded 60 feet per year, the report said.

Beaches change in response to a variety of factors, including changes in the amount of available sand, storms, sea-level rise and human activities, the report said.

How much a beach is eroding or prograding -- growing -- in any given location is due to some combination of these factors, which vary from place to place, scientists say.

The researchers say that although coastal change is highly variable, the majority of the coast is eroding throughout both regions, indicating erosion hazards are widespread.

"There is increasing need for this kind of comprehensive assessment in all coastal environments to guide managed response to sea-level rise," lead report author Cheryl Hapke of the USGS said.

"It is very difficult to predict what may happen in the future without a solid understanding of what has happened in the past."

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