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Assessing the extreme overwash regime along an embayed urban beach

ABSTRACT

Publication date: 1 December 2016 Source:Geomorphology, Volume 274 Author(s): Tanya M. Silveira, Rui Taborda, Mafalda M. Carapuço, César Andrade, Maria C. Freitas, João F. Duarte, Norbert P. Psuty

Coastal overwash is one of the most important hazards affecting the coastal zone and therefore has been the focus of several studies related to the establishment of setback lines. However, studies of extreme overwash (EO) events along urban beaches backed by a seawall or structure are scarce, and reveal the difficulties associated with its assessment, measurement and validation. The Nazaré coastal urban area (located on the west coast of Portugal) is developed adjacent to an embayed reflective beach and is subject to frequent and localized inundation due to EO events capable of overtopping the protection seawall. The current work develops a methodological approach to simulate total water levels (TWL) and seawall overtopping occurrences in time and space, with the ultimate goal of identifying the factors that govern the extreme overwash regime. The method uses multi-decadal time series of site-specific wave and tide, and high-resolution topo-bathymetric data, and recreates the TWL time series for a 36-year period. The model is successfully validated against video imagery and maximum swash line data that provide information on the reach of the water levels measured during modal and extreme TWL conditions along the studied beach. This study establishes the importance of the interaction of the modal and extreme hydrodynamic processes with the beach and backshore morphology. The Nazaré embayment is in equilibrium with the alongshore-varying modal wave conditions, resulting in higher vulnerability of the most sheltered sector during extreme events.