CSDMS 2013 annual meeting poster Andrew Ashton

Presentation provided during CSDMS annual meeting 2013

On a Neck, On a Spit

Andrew Ashton, WHOI Woods Hole Massachusetts, United States. aashton@whoi.edu


Recurved barrier spits occur in a wide variety of environments, from active delta complexes to rocky coasts, where spits extend depositionally from a shore that is otherwise eroding. Although controls on spit orientation are often presented in the literature a posteriori (i.e. after the spit has been observed), there surprisingly remains no general model that predicts spit shape and orientation in terms of external variables, such as wave climate, sediment supply, and embayment depth. We study spit shape controls using the Coastline Evolution Model (CEM), a numerical model that evolves the plan-view coast based upon the processes of alongshore sediment transport and barrier overwash maintaining a minimum critical barrier width. Model results demonstrate that the directional distribution of approaching waves serves as a first-order control on spit shape, with waves from multiple directions playing a vital role in spit extension and reshaping. Surprisingly, we find that boundary effects, namely the rate of change of the updrift coast location, play a similarly important role in spit shape. The depth of the platform upon which a spit grows plays another important role, with deeper platforms tending to accommodate more sharply curved spits. Every day, spits act as a type of messenger in disguise, revealing wave forcing, sediment supply, and local geometry.

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