Coastal Change: The coastal system along southwest Washington and northwest Oregon has undergone significant change over the past several thousand years. Research components include analysis of past and present changes in geomorphic features like barrier evolution, shoreline behaviour, beach morphology, and bathymetric change. In addition, the Study is attempting to link observed coastal changes with environmental forcings, climatological events, sediment budgets, and human intervention.
Sediment Budget: A sediment budget characterizes and quantifies the sources, pathways and sinks of sediment within a littoral cell. Research is conducted to determine the volumes, accumulation rates, and transport rates of sediment for each of the major environments of the littoral cell including the Columbia River, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor, the beaches and dunes, and nearshore and shelf sand bodies. This information is critical for determining the sand supply available to the littoral cell's beaches and for predicting future shoreline change.
Coastal Processes: Research is conducted into the oceanographic processes active along the Columbia River littoral cell. Studies are carried out to characterize the ocean waves, currents, sea level, and sediment transport in the Columbia River littoral cell. The Study is using historical data, hindcast data, field experiment data, and model results to improve the understanding of how coastal processes drive coastal change.
Predictive Modeling: A primary goal of the Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion Study is to predict coastal change at management scale of tens of kilometers and decades. To this end the Study is employing a variety of conceptual and mathematical models to predict future coastal conditions. Models are used both to make quantitative predictions of coastal change as well as to help clarify important geologic and oceanographic processes that govern the change. Modeling efforts include shoaling and refracting waves as they propagate from deep to shallow water, inner shelf and surf zone sediment transport due to storms, changing shoreline position, and shoreface change due to episodic coastal subsidence events.
Management Support: Integrating the scientific research of the Study with the land use planning efforts of coastal communities is of paramount importance to encourage appropriate uses of coastal resources. The Study is generating a body of knowledge to support science-based planning and management. This section discusses efforts geared towards developing decision-support products for use by coastal communities in daily management and long-term planning. These efforts include mapping wetlands in the City of Westport, assessing and predicting shoreline change at two of Washington's state parks, and developing a framework to evaluate a community's susceptibility to coastal change through the integration of multi-disciplinary research results.