Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Ping Wang


beach morphodynamics, beach nourishment, eigenvalues, eigenvectors, empirical orthogonal function analysis, nearshore sediment transport


The heavily developed Long Key is located in Pinellas County in west-central Florida. The structured Blind Pass at the north end of the barrier island interrupts the southward longshore sediment transport, resulting in severe and chronic beach erosion along the northern portion of the island. Frequent beach nourishments were conducted to mitigate the erosion. In this study, the performance of the most recent beach nourishment in 2010 is quantified through time-series beach profile surveys. Over the 34-month period, the nourished northern portion of the island, Upham Beach, lost up to 330 m3/m of sand, with a landward shoreline retreat of up to 100 m. The middle portion of the island gained up to 25 m3/m of sand, benefiting from the sand lost from Upham Beach. The southern portion of Long Key lost a modest amount of sediment, largely due to Tropical Storm Debby, which approached from the south in June 2012.

The severe erosion along Upham Beach is induced by a large negative longshore transport gradient. The beach here has no sand bar and retreated landward persistently over the 34-month study period. In contrast the profiles in the central section of the island generally have a sand bar which moved landward and seaward in response to seasonal and storm-induced wave-energy changes. The sand volume across the entire profile in the central portion of the island is mostly conserved.

Two typical example beach profiles, LK3A and R157, were selected to examine the ability of the commonly used principal component analysis (PCA), also commonly known as empirical orthogonal function analysis (EOF), to identify beach profile


changes induced by longshore and cross-shore sediment transport gradients. For the longshore-transport driven changes at the non-barred profile LK3A, the principal eigenvector accounted for over 91% of the total variance, with a dominant broad peak in the cross-shore distribution. At the barred R157, the profile changes were caused mainly by cross-shore transport gradients with modest contribution from longshore transport gradient; eigenvalue one only accounted for less than 51% of the total variance, and eigenvalues two and three still contributed considerably to the overall variance.

In order to verify the uniqueness of the PCA results from LK3A and R157, five numerical experiments were conducted, simulating changes at a barred and non-barred beach driven by longshore, cross-shore, and combined sediment transport gradients. Results from LK3A and R157 compare well with simulated beach erosion (or accretion) due to variable longshore sediment transport gradients and due to both cross-shore and longshore sediment transport gradients, respectively. Different PCA results were obtained from different profile change patterns.

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