EGU2020-11977, updated on 13 Jan 2022
EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Aeolian transport on a wet beach: Field observations from the swash zone

Christy Swann1 and sarah trimble1,2
Christy Swann and sarah trimble
  • 1U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Sediment Dynamics Section, Stennis Space Center, MS, USA (
  • 2National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., USA

Quantifying aeolian transport within the swash zone is critical to understanding feedbacks between aeolian and nearshore processes in coastal environments. In the swash zone, high moisture contents are thought to significantly limit the amount of sediment available for transport by wind. These assertions are supported by empirical relationships between the threshold for aeolian transport and moisture content that show gravimetric moisture contents greater than ~5% severely restrict the transport of windblown sand. Yet, during strong wind events aeolian transport can occur in the swash zone where moisture content is significantly higher. Here, we present field observations of fully-saturated aeolian transport on a wet beach and highlight the proficiency of winds to sustain aeolian transport in the swash zone.  

Field observations were collected during the passing of Tropical Storm Nester on a dissipative beach north of Corolla, North Carolina, USA in the early morning hours of October 19. 2019. Beach width ranged between ~50 and 100 meters and observations were made during a falling tide. Alignment of predominate winds and beach orientation provided a nearly unlimited fetch with an abundant sediment supply from the drier upper beach. Mean grain sizes of surface grab samples in the swash zone were 0.17 to 0.19 mm and moisture content in the swash zone ranged from 8 to 13% during the observational period.

Videos of fully developed, saturated transport in the form of nested streamers, approximately 5-20 cm wide, were recorded. A vertical array of cup and sonic anemometers measured near surface fluid flow. Cup anemometers were sampled at 1 Hz and observed wind velocities at 7, 18, 44, 68 and 93 cm above the surface. Ultrasonic anemometers sampled 3 dimensional velocity components at 32 Hz via at 53 and ~100 cm.  Sustained wind velocities were 9.5 m/s at 93 cm above the surface with gusts reaching 14 m/s. A series of vertically-segregating saltation traps captured particles in transport and showed minimal size-segregation with height. Gravimetric moisture content of captured saltation ranged from 0 to 4%.

Pulses of abundant aeolian transport during the storm were largely driven by largescale coherent eddies initiating transport from the drier upper beach. These upper beach sediments sustained transport on the lower, wet beach. The spatial and temporal variability of the exceedance of both fluid and impact thresholds strongly controls transport. These field observations demonstrate the proficiency of wind to transport of large volumes sand in the swash zone during strong alongshore wind events.

How to cite: Swann, C. and trimble, S.: Aeolian transport on a wet beach: Field observations from the swash zone, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-11977,, 2020.


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