Beaches vary in size and shape, with some being broad and rocky while others are narrow and gently sloping. They also differ in shell content. Some have a great deal of shell content, while others have hardly any. When you revisit the same beach over a period of time, you will notice changes in the width of the beach. This change is due to the force of nature, such as a storm or tidal surge. You can also see other features like tree stumps, outcrops of mud layers, and rocks on the beach.
The materials on a beach are composed of sand, pebbles, rock, seashell fragments, and a variety of other materials. Most of these materials are the result of a long process of weathering, in which water and wind wear away the land. For instance, huge boulders can be eroded to a few grains of sand by the pounding of waves. Beaches may also contain shells, seaweed, and other marine organisms.
Beaches are continually changing, due to the waves and ocean currents that carry sediments hundreds of kilometers away from the shore. Storm winds can also erode beaches by throwing sand into the air. This creates sandbars, which are narrow areas of exposed sand and sediment. Waves will retrieve this sand, leaving behind a variety of colors, textures, and gradients. These natural phenomena are very important to the formation of a beach.
The berm, a long, narrow sand wedge with a gradual slope from the shore to the land, is another feature of a beach’s shape. It’s a natural feature of coastal terrain, formed when a beach receives sand from an offshore bar during a storm.
The composition of the beach depends on the underlying sediments and the sand blown in by the sea. The wind then moves the sand to the back of the beach where it settles into small hummocks, foredunes, or even long rows of dunes. Over the years, these structures can significantly change the shape of the beach.
In addition to a broad sandy beach, the seafront often contains exposed bedrock. These are called pocket beaches, and can be found in abundance along the eastern and northern coasts of the United States. This makes the beach environment more interesting and unique. So, if you’re looking for the best beach location for your next vacation, consider the history and features of your local beach.
The best way to protect the beach from pollution is to keep your trash off of it. Many beaches have Blue Flag status, which indicates they are a safe place to swim. Losing this status can severely impact tourism revenue. Another way to protect the ocean is to avoid collecting shells off the beach, as these can destroy the habitat of wildlife.
High waves often break the sand, which builds up a steep beach face. These steep sections are often capped with well-developed beach cusps or a berm. At low tide, the sand moves back onto the beach, forming a terrace.