Beach Cusps as Self-Organized Patterns

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Science  14 May 1993:
Vol. 260, Issue 5110, pp. 968-971
DOI: 10.1126/science.260.5110.968


Computer simulations of flow and sediment transport in the swash zone on a beach demonstrate that a model that couples local flow acceleration and alongshore surface gradient is sufficient to produce uniformly spaced beach cusps. The characteristics of the simulated cusps and the conditions under which they form are in reasonable agreement with observations of natural cusps. The self-organization mechanism in the model is incompatible with an accepted model in which standing alongshore waves drive the regular pattern of erosion and deposition that gives rise to beach cusps. Because the models make similar predictions, it is concluded that currently available observational data are insufficient for discrimination between them.

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