Coastal Geology

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sea stacks at sunset
Olympic National Park, Washington.

Photo by John Donofrio, Share The Experience Photo Contest.


About 70% of Earth's surface is covered by water, and the coast, which forms the interface between land and water, is the sight of a particular array of geomorphic processes and a range of landforms. For example, waves and tides involve movement and dissipation of large amounts of energy capable of causing rapid and spectacular changes in landforms along coasts. Shoreline and coastal features (e.g., dunes, berms, reefs, and barrier islands) are critical for protecting the inland areas from storm events and high-energy waves.


Geologic Features and Processes

To learn about Coastal Geology and the driving forces that affect shorelines, select a topic below.


Coastal storms

Spinning their way across the warmer parts of the globe, tropical storms or “cyclones” disrupt the lives and change the habitat of millions of coastal dwellers (human and wildlife) each year. A cyclone refers to an area of air with circular or near-circular fluid motion rotating around a center of low atmospheric pressure. Although recognized for the devastation they cause, storms also have many beneficial aspects.

  • Types of Storms [Site Under Development]
  • Storms of Record [Site Under Development]
  • Response to Storms [Site Under Development]
  • Storms and Climate Change [Site Under Development]
  • Ecological Effects of Storms [Site Under Development]

Humans in the Coastal Zone

People love living near the beach. More than 50% of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles (80 km) of a shoreline. However, dynamic coastal processes put human lives and property at risk. Human activities can also threaten the balance of natural coastal systems. To learn more about our interactions with coastal features and processes, select a topic below.

Coastal Geoconservation

To protect and preserve natural areas along coasts, NPS resource mangers need an understanding of how coastal systems function. An integrative, holistic approach to coastal investigations takes into account the complex interactions between coastal processes and materials, as well as human influences within these very important and fragile environments.

To learn more about how geoscience can be used in managing and conserving coastal land, select a topic below.


Coastal Geology in Parks


Click sections below for park examples


Coastal Engineering Inventory

A reconnaissance-level investigation, analysis and inventory of coastal engineering projects in ten coastal national parks was completed by the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University with funding provided by the National Park Service Recreation Fee Program.


Engineering Inventory Reports

Source: Data Store Saved Search 3437. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.


Geological Monitoring

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    Regional Geology—Coastal Provinces

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      Last updated: May 10, 2019


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