Evaluation of storm impact on sandy beaches of the Gulf of Valencia using Landsat imagery series

Autores UPV
Revista Geomorphology


The impact of storms on sandy beaches and the subsequent recovery process is described from an analysis of the shoreline positions obtained from Landsat 5 TM and Landsat 7 ETM + imagery. Shoreline extraction is based on an algorithm previously proposed by the authors that enables a positioning accuracy of 5 m root mean square error (RMSE). The impact of six storms registered over a period of seven months (between November 2001 and May 2002) and the beach recovery processes until December 2002 across a 100 km segment of the Gulf of Valencia on the Spanish Mediterranean coast were analysed by comparing 12 shoreline positions. The multiple shoreline positions obtained from Landsat images provide very useful information for describing the impact of storms and the recovery process across large segments of microtidal coast. This enables the identification of differences not only in the magnitude of change produced by a particular event but also in the cumulative effect associated with several storm events, and in the study of how the beach recovery process takes place. The results show a high level of spatial variability. Beaches with steep slopes experienced fewer changes than shallow slopes. The existence of well developed foredunes in some areas minimised the reduction in the beach width after the storms. Coastal orientation was another important factor in explaining storm impact and the recovery process. This factor affects not only the way the waves interact with the beaches but also the sediment longshore transport: beach regeneration is slower when the transport of sediments is limited by artificial infrastructures (groins, jetties, ports) or natural sediment traps (headlands). The main limitations of using the proposed methodology to obtain the shoreline position from Landsat images are related to: (i) the precision in the shoreline detection; (ii) the nature of the indicator obtained, that is, the water/land interface; and (iii) the registration instant defined by the image acquisition time. However, the high frequency of the data acquisition and the possibility to cover large coastal areas bring a new perspective that enriches other methods and tools used by coastal scientists.