EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Rapid morphological evolution during beach breaching and closure at a bar-built estuary

Mara Orescanin, Tyonna McPherson, and Paul Jessen
Mara Orescanin et al.
  • Naval Postgraduate School, Oceanography, United States of America (

The Carmel River runs 58 km from the Santa Lucia Mountains through the Carmel Valley eventually entering a lagoon at Carmel River State Beach near Carmel, California, USA. During the dry summer months, the lagoon is closed, with no connection to the coastal ocean.  However, during the wet winter months, the river often breaches through the lagoon allowing water to freely flow between the river and Carmel Bay. Sediment transport, in part owing to river discharge and in part owing to ocean forcing (tides and waves), contributes heavily to whether the lagoon is open or closed: when there are low flow conditions, waves and tides can decrease flow rates in the breach, allowing sediment to settle. The sediment budget is expected to be a closed system, owing to the rocky headlands and long-term stability (no yearly regression or transgression) of the shoreline, despite managed attempts to control breach and closure timing. However, it is currently unknown 1) how velocity profiles evolve during breaching, and 2) how much sediment moves during such an event. The hypothesis is that the breach mouth can completely disappear and re-emerge over a single breach-closure cycle, leading to meter-scale daily accretion and erosion rates of berm height if berm elevation is significantly lower than the expected steady-state berm height. Furthermore, it is hypothesized that during active breaching, discharge rates through the breach channel are larger than upstream river discharge rates owing to elevated water levels within the back lagoon. This study uses a RiverSurveyor M9 Acoustic Doppler Profiler to measure outflow discharge and GPS topographic surveys to quantify elevation changes. A velocity profile can be built which will estimate the sediment transport potential within the breach. The information obtained will help identify and better understand the river discharge thresholds which contribute to frequent breaching as well as estimates of morphological evolution during breaching, which are currently unknown, and can assist in determining likelihood of successful managed breaching and closure events. 

How to cite: Orescanin, M., McPherson, T., and Jessen, P.: Rapid morphological evolution during beach breaching and closure at a bar-built estuary, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-219,, 2020.

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