What is Another Name for Longshore Transport? Understanding the Coastal Drift Process

Have you ever heard of the term littoral drift? Nope, it’s not a new band name or an exotic cocktail, it’s actually another name for longshore transport. This phenomenon refers to the movement of sediment along a beach caused by the longshore current. In other words, the sand and pebbles you see on the shoreline have traveled from another location thanks to the flow of water.

The reason why littoral drift or longshore transport is so important to understand is because it has a huge impact on coastal erosion and beach nourishment. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics or convenience, but a matter of protecting our coastlines from erosion caused by storms and a changing climate. By understanding how sediment moves along the shoreline, scientists and engineers can better plan for beach replenishment projects and coastal protection measures.

One interesting thing about longshore transport is that it’s not a linear process. The zigzagging motion of waves and currents means that the sediment can travel in unpredictable patterns. That’s why it’s crucial to study the specific conditions of each beach to assess the rate and direction of longshore transport. So, next time you’re on the beach, take a closer look at the sand and pebbles under your feet and consider the journey they might have taken to get there.

Definition of Longshore Transport

In coastal geography, longshore transport refers to the movement of sand and sediment along a beach or shore. This natural process is caused by the movement of waves and currents, which can carry sediment in a zig-zag pattern along the shoreline.

Longshore transport is also known by several other names, including:

  • Littoral drift
  • Beach drift
  • Longshore drift
  • Shore-drift

These names all refer to the same process of sediment being transported down the beach by wave action.

The Process of Longshore Transport

Longshore transport, also known as littoral transport, is a natural process in which sediments such as sand and gravel are transported along the beach by the action of waves and currents. The process is driven by the movement of water parallel to the shoreline, which generates a net sediment transport in the longshore direction. Longshore transport is an essential process that shapes and modifies the coastlines of the world.

Factors Affecting Longshore Transport

  • Wave Energy: The amount of sediment transported along the beach is directly proportional to the wave energy that hits the shore. Higher wave energy leads to more significant transport of sediment.
  • Beach Profile: The gradient of the beach, the size and shape of sediments, and the beach slope all affect the rate and direction of longshore transport.
  • Wind: The direction and strength of wind can create currents that either enhance or oppose the direction of longshore transport.

Types of Longshore Transport

There are two types of longshore transport: onshore and offshore. Onshore transport moves sediment towards the beach, while offshore transport moves sediment away from the beach and can lead to beach erosion. Both types of longshore transport can occur simultaneously and are influenced by the factors listed above

Impacts of Longshore Transport

Longshore transport affects the shape and size of beaches and can have significant impacts on coastal communities and infrastructure. Beach erosion caused by longshore transport can cause damage to property, affect tourism, and impact natural habitats. At the same time, longshore transport can also benefit ecosystems by redistributing sediments and creating more diverse habitat ranges for marine life. The management of longshore transport is, therefore, an essential aspect of coastal management.

Advantages of Longshore Transport Disadvantages of Longshore Transport
Provides habitat for marine life Can cause damage to human-made structures
Redistributes sediments Can cause beach erosion
Creates diverse coastal environments Affects coastal tourism and economies

Understanding the process of longshore transport and its impacts is crucial for the management and conservation of coastal environments across the globe.

The Importance of Longshore Transport in Coastal Processes

Longshore transport is a critical process in the shaping and evolution of coastlines worldwide. This process describes the movement of sediment in a zig-zag pattern along the shoreline, which occurs due to waves approaching the shore at an oblique angle. Longshore transport has a significant impact on coastal morphology, affecting features such as beaches, dunes, barriers, and spits. In this article, we will explore the importance of longshore transport and how it affects coastal processes.

Factors Affecting Longshore Transport

  • The angle of the waves
  • The strength and frequency of the waves
  • The size and shape of the sediment particles

The angle of the waves is one of the principal factors determining the direction of longshore transport. Waves that break parallel to the shore will result in minimal longshore drift, while oblique waves encourage the transport of sediment in one direction along the coast. Stronger and more frequent waves lead to greater sediment transport, causing larger and more pronounced coastal features such as beaches and dunes. Sediment size and shape also influence transport, with larger, heavier particles tending to move less than smaller ones.

Impact on Coastal Erosion and Deposition

Longshore transport plays a critical role in coastal erosion and deposition. The transport of sediment by waves creates a constant flux of material along the coastline, whereby material is removed from some areas and deposited in others. Over time, this process can lead to the formation of extensive beaches, dunes, and barrier islands, or the erosion of entire stretches of coastline. Longshore transport can, therefore, have significant economic and environmental impacts, particularly in regions where coastal development and infrastructure are prevalent.

Quantifying Longshore Transport

Measuring longshore transport can be challenging, with multiple methods available for calculating transport rates. One commonly used technique is the use of tracer materials, such as fluorescent dye or radioactive particles, which are added to the sediment. These materials are then tracked as they move along the shoreline, allowing researchers to calculate rates of transport. Another method is through the use of sediment traps, which are placed offshore to capture sediment particles moving in the water column. The use of computer models is another approach used to estimate rates of sediment transport, allowing for the prediction of beach response to changing wave and sediment conditions.

Method Advantages Disadvantages
Tracer materials – Provides direct measurement of transport rates
– Enables tracking of sediment over time
– Limited by tracer material availability and cost
– May affect natural sediment processes
Sediment traps – Allows for the capture of sediment particles moving in the water column
– Can provide long-term transport data
– Limited by the location and number of traps
– May not capture all sediment particles
Computer models – Can estimate long-term transport rates over large areas
– Allows for prediction of beach response under changing conditions
– Limited by accuracy of models and input data
– May not fully capture local wave and sediment processes

In conclusion, longshore transport is a critical process in determining the shape and evolution of coastlines worldwide. Understanding the factors that influence longshore transport rates, its impact on coastal morphology, and the methods used to quantify these rates is crucial in both managing and conserving our coastal resources.

Factors affecting longshore transport

The longshore transport, also known as littoral transport, is a process that moves sediment along the coast in a parallel direction to the shoreline. This transport is crucial to maintaining the equilibrium of beaches and coastlines, and its disruption can lead to coastal erosion. Several factors affect the longshore transport, and understanding these factors is necessary to predict its behavior and develop effective coastal management strategies.

  • Wave energy: The amount of energy in waves is a significant factor in longshore transport. Higher wave energy leads to a greater sediment transport rate, while lower wave energy results in a sediment accumulation. The angle of wave incidence also affects the longshore transport, with oblique waves being more effective at moving sediment than waves parallel to the shoreline.
  • Current: The direction and strength of coastal currents are significant factors in longshore transport. Currents moving in the opposite direction of the longshore transport, known as counter-currents, can counteract or even reverse sediment transport.
  • Beach morphology: The shape and gradient of the beach play a crucial role in the effectiveness of longshore transport. The width of the beach affects the storage capacity of sediment, while the slope of the beach controls the velocity of the waves and currents.

Human influence on longshore transport

Human intervention and development along the coast can have a significant impact on longshore transport and coastal erosion. Human factors that affect longshore transport include:

  • Coastal structures such as jetties, groins, and seawalls can disrupt longshore transport by blocking sediment transport, causing erosion at downstream beaches, and altering the direction of longshore transport.
  • Coastal engineering projects such as dredging, sand nourishment, and beach stabilization can alter the natural sediment balance of the coastline and have long-term consequences on coastal erosion and habitat.
  • Climate change, sea-level rise, and storm surge can exacerbate the impact of human intervention on longshore transport and increase the risk of coastal flooding and erosion.

Longshore sediment transport formula

The longshore sediment transport rate can be estimated using empirical formulas based on wave energy, current velocity, and beach morphology. One such formula is the CERC (Coastal Engineering Research Center) formula:

Qs = 0.0044 × Hmo × Tp × So × D2.55
× Fo × Ks × Kd × Kp


  • Qs: the sediment transport rate per unit width (m2/s)
  • Hmo: the significant wave height (m)
  • Tp: the wave period (s)
  • So: a beach slope parameter (dimensionless)
  • D: the beach size parameter, which accounts for the width and depth of the surf zone (m)
  • Fo: a wave angle factor (dimensionless)
  • Ks: a sediment shape factor (dimensionless)
  • Kd: a sediment density factor (dimensionless)
  • Kp: a depth-limited factor (dimensionless).

This formula represents a simplified approach to estimating sediment transport and should be used with caution as it does not account for the complex nature of coastal processes.

Examples of Longshore Transport in Action

Longshore transport, also known as littoral drift, is a natural process of sediment transport along coastal areas. Wind, waves, and currents work together to move sand and other materials parallel to the shore, shaping the coastline over time. Here are some examples of longshore transport in action:

  • Beach erosion: When waves approach the coast at an angle, they create a longshore current that moves sediments along the shoreline. Over time, this can cause erosion and loss of beach sand, affecting local ecosystems and tourism.
  • Sandbars and spits: Longshore transport can also create sandbars and spits that extend from the shore into the ocean. These features are formed by the build-up of sediment carried by the longshore current, and they provide important habitats for marine life.
  • Jetty drift: When a jetty or breakwater is built perpendicular to the shoreline, it can disrupt the natural flow of sediments and lead to sand accumulation on one side and erosion on the other. This can affect navigation channels and require regular dredging.

Longshore transport is important to understand for coastal management and engineering projects. By studying the patterns of sediment movement, engineers can design structures that minimize the impact of erosion and maintain the balance of coastal ecosystems. Here is an example of the longshore transport rates along the U.S. Pacific Coast:

Location Longshore transport rate (thousand cubic yards/year)
San Francisco Bay 740
Monterey Bay 369
Santa Barbara Channel 198
Santa Monica Bay 66

As the table shows, the longshore transport rates vary depending on the region and can have significant impacts on coastal morphology and ecological processes. By monitoring and managing these rates, we can protect our coastal environments and infrastructure.

Longshore Transport in Relation to Erosion and Sedimentation

Longshore transport is an important process in coastal geomorphology, affecting both erosion and sedimentation. The movement of sediment along a beach or shoreline due to the longshore current can result in both the erosion of one area and the deposition of sediment in another. Additionally, the presence of longshore transport can also impact the overall sediment budget, determining how much sediment is present or removed from a given area.

  • Erosion: Longshore transport can cause significant erosion in areas where sediment is being removed from the coastline. This can occur in areas where there is limited supply of sediment or where the longshore current is particularly strong. Over time, this erosion can result in the loss of land or damage to infrastructure located near the coast.
  • Sedimentation: Conversely, longshore transport can also result in significant sediment deposition in certain areas. Where the current is depositing sediment, the shoreline may experience accretion and the buildup of beach or dune features. This can have important ecological implications, as the deposition of sediment can affect the habitat of certain coastal species.
  • Sediment Budget: Longshore transport plays a critical role in determining the sediment budget of a given stretch of coastline. By understanding how much sediment is being transported, as well as where it is being deposited and eroded, coastal managers can better understand how to manage the sediment budget in order to preserve or enhance the natural environment. For example, in some areas, artificial nourishment may be necessary to maintain the sediment budget and prevent erosion or accretion from impacting the local ecology.

Overall, longshore transport is a complex process that can have significant impacts on coastal landscapes. By understanding this process and its relationship to erosion and sedimentation, researchers and coastal managers can implement more effective strategies for preserving the natural beauty and ecological integrity of our coastlines.


Author Title of the work Publication Date
Dean, R.G. Coastal processes with engineering applications Cambridge University Press 2017
Komar, P.D. Beach processes and sedimentation Prentice Hall 1998

Management and Mitigation Strategies for Longshore Transport

Longshore transport, or littoral transport, is the movement of sediments along the beach caused by waves and tides. This natural process is essential in maintaining beaches, but it can also cause erosion and damage to coastal infrastructure.

Management and mitigation strategies are crucial in addressing the adverse effects of longshore transport. Here are some strategies that can help:

  • Beach nourishment – This is the process of adding sand and sediments to the beach to replenish eroded areas. It is a quick and effective way to manage the effects of longshore transport. However, it is expensive and may require ongoing maintenance.
  • Beach stabilization – Structures such as groins, breakwaters, and seawalls can be built to stabilize the beach and prevent sediment loss. However, these structures can also cause impacts such as changes in wave patterns and negative impacts on marine life.
  • Beach vegetation – Planting vegetation such as dune grass can help stabilize the beach and prevent erosion. It also provides habitat for wildlife and enhances the aesthetics of the beach.

Another important strategy in managing longshore transport is monitoring and predicting the behavior of waves and tides. This can be done through the use of computer models and field measurements. By understanding the patterns of sediment movement, decision-makers can make informed choices on which management strategy to implement.

Table 1 shows some examples of longshore transport management strategies and their advantages and disadvantages:

Strategy Advantages Disadvantages
Beach nourishment Quick and effective Expensive, requires ongoing maintenance
Beach stabilization Efficient in preventing erosion Can cause negative impacts on marine life
Beach vegetation Provides habitat for wildlife, enhances aesthetics Can be slow to establish, may not be effective in severe storms

Longshore transport is a natural process that requires careful management and mitigation to minimize its negative impacts. By implementing appropriate strategies, decision-makers can ensure that beaches remain healthy and resilient for generations to come.

What is Another Name for Longshore Transport?

Q: What does longshore transport mean?
A: Longshore transport, also known as littoral transport, refers to the natural process of transporting sediment along the shoreline by currents, waves, and tides.

Q: What is another term for longshore transport?
A: Longshore transport is also referred to as littoral drift or longshore drift.

Q: What is the difference between littoral transport and offshore transport?
A: Littoral transport is the movement of sediment along the shoreline, while offshore transport refers to the movement of sediment within the surf zone.

Q: How does littoral drift affect coastal processes?
A: Littoral drift plays a crucial role in shaping and reshaping coastlines. It helps to maintain the balance between beach erosion and deposition and supports the growth of beaches and barrier islands.

Q: What are some factors that influence longshore transport?
A: The direction and intensity of waves, tides, and currents, and the grain size of sediment are some of the key factors that affect longshore transport.

Q: What are the implications of longshore drift for coastal engineering and management?
A: Understanding longshore drift is essential for effective coastal engineering and management. It helps to predict beach erosion and accretion, design coastal structures, and plan for coastal hazards such as storms and sea level rise.

Thanks for Reading!

We hope this article has helped to clarify what longshore transport is and what other names it goes by. Remember, longshore transport is a critical coastal process that affects the natural and built environment. If you want to learn more about coastal processes and management, be sure to visit us again soon!

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