Monitoring Beach Changes Using GPS Surveying Techniques


  • Robert A. Morton
  • Mark P. Leach
  • Jeffrey G. Paine
  • Michael A. Cardoza


Shoreline change analysis, three-dimensional beach models, storm impact assessment, beach profiles


A need exists for frequent and prompt updating of shoreline positions, fates of shoreline movement, and volumetric nearshore changes. To effectively monitor and predict these beach changes, accurate measurements of beach morphology incorporating both shore-parallel and shore-normal transects are required. Although it is possible to monitor beach dynamics using land-based surveying methods, it is generally not practical to collect data of sufficient density and resolution to satisfy a three-dimensional beach change model of long segments of the coast. The challenge to coastal scientists is to devise new beach monitoring methods that address these needs and are rapid, reliable, relatively inexpensive, and maintain or improve measurement accuracy.

The adaptation of Global Positioning System (GPS) surveying techniques to beach monitoring activities is a promising response to this challenge. An experiment that employed both GPS and conventional beach surveying was conducted, and a new beach monitoring method employing kinematic GPS surveys was devised. This new method involves the collection of precise shore-parallel and shore-normal GPS positions from that the GPS measurements agree with conventional shore-normal surveys at the 1 cm level, and repeated GPS measurements employing the moving vehicle demonstrate a precision of better than 1cm. In addition, the nearly continuous sampling and increased resolution provided by the GPS surveying technique reveals alongshore changes in beach morphology that are undetected by conventional shore-normal profiles. The application of GPS surveying techniques combined with the refinement of appropriate methods for data collection and analysis provides a better understanding of beach changes, sediment transport, and storm impacts.