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U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1206

Coastal Change Along the Shore of Northeastern South Carolina: The South Carolina Coastal Erosion Study

SECTION 1. Coastal Change: Implications For The Grand Strand

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1.5 South Carolina Coastal Erosion Study

The USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program and the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium began scientific investigations of coastal erosion along the Grand Strand in 1999.  The South Carolina Coastal Erosion Study (SCCES) is one of the most comprehensive regional studies undertaken to date and has provided critical information for management of the State’s coastal resources.  The cooperative effort involves the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program, Coastal Carolina University, University of South Carolina, College of Charleston, Georgia Institute of Technology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and South Carolina Sea Grant. 

The SCCES attempts to understand the full range of factors and processes that control sediment transport and coastal morphology along the Grand Strand. Knowledge of how the coastal system functions enhances our ability to predict coastal change ranging from the short-term effects of a single storm (hours to days) to the long-term effects of sea-level rise (decades to centuries).  The interdisciplinary nature of the study has required cooperation among geologists, geophysicists, physical oceanographers, and numerical modelers.  Our systematic approach consists of three phases:

  1. Describe the regional geologic framework, which refers to the structure, composition, and distribution of rocks and sediment that compose the coast, shoreface, and inner continental shelf.

  2. Determine seasonal and longer term patterns of shoreline change by surveying beaches at regular intervals over several years.

  3. Quantify the physical processes that drive coastal erosion through a combination of field measurements and numerical-modeling simulations.

This report synthesizes the geologic and oceanographic factors that control sediment movement along the Grand Strand inner shelf and beaches. Ultimately, the three-part research strategy applied in this study will improve the prediction of shoreline behavior and guide efforts in other regions where limited sediment availability on the inner shelf is linked to coastal erosion.

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