Washington's Coast
Washington State Department of Ecology

El Niño
beach change

During the winter, storm waves bite into beaches, dunes, and bluffs. Sand is carried offshore where it accumulates in bars. These bars in turn help buffer the beach from surf. During the summer, offshore sand is carried back to the shore by gentle swells.
Winter storms move sand offshore. In the summer, sand moves back onshore.
In October 1995, winter storm waves carved into the beach and dunes at North Beach, Ocean Shores.
Ocean Shores, winter 1995
By June 2001, several years later, a tremendous amount of sand returned to beach.
Ocean Shores, summer 2001

Winter shoreline changes
  • Along southwest Washington's sandy beaches, the shoreline can move landward as much as 328 feet (100 meters) during the winter. On average, the winter shoreline moves landward about 108 feet (33 meters).
  • Beaches lose about 1.5 feet in elevation during the winter. Rip currents can scour as much as 6.5 feet from the beach.
Source: The Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion Study.
Images courtesy of: Brian Voigt; Greg Pelletier.

Tides Online, NOAA Storm surge warnings. Water level and meteorological data along the projected path of severe storms.
Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion Study. A recent study of Washington's coastal processes and shoreline changes.

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