Longshore Drift and Depositional Landforms

Compiled by Mark Francek (more info) at Carleton College (more info) (SERC) and Central Michigan University (more info)

Find animations and images showing a variety of depositional landforms resulting from longshore drift. There are also animations that detail what happens when humans interrupt sediment transport through river and coastal engineering projects.

Click here to browse the complete set of Visualization Collections.

Thumbnail image of spit evolution
Coastal Animations This set of animations from the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS) group contains movies of various coastal processes including several animations of longshore processes. Movies include alongshore sandwaves, cuspate shoreline, longshore sediment deposition and spit evolution.

Seasonal Beach Deposition Patterns, McGraw Hill (more info) A relatively simple Flash animation contrasting sediment transport during winter and summer. The summer is characterized by lower energy, longer wavelengths, and sediment accumulating on the beach face. In contrast, the storms of winter create higher energy waves, shorter wavelengths, and sediment deposited as bars offshore. Access the animation by clicking on the "Seasonal Cycle of a Beach" link.

Baymouth Bar Formation, McGraw Hill (more info) This Flash animation recounts how a spit, caused by longshore drift, eventually seals off an embayment, forming a baymouth bar. Access the animation by clicking on the "Spits and Baymouth Bars" link.

Spit Formation, Wycombe ( This site may be offline. ) This two step Flash animated slide show illustrates how a spit forms under the influence of longshore drift. As the longshore current passes a headland, it slows, and entrained sediment is deposited in a line down current of the headland.

Land Loss Animations, USGS (more info) Find a movie in the Real Media format depicting significant wetland lost along the Louisiana coast due to leveeing and other modifications of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. Unlike many of the animations present in this section, the spatial patterns depicted here result from sediment starvation. "The river delivered 463 million tons of sediment a year between 1930 and 1952, but beginning in 1963, the sediment load dropped to 141 million tons. The decrease most likely occurred because of erosion control along the river's banks and dam and reservoir construction on its tributaries." From 'Why is the land in south Louisiana disappearing?'. The animation would be more visually effective in appreciating the scope of the wetland lost if the color of disappearing wetlands was blue rather than a shade of red. The home site for these animations, "LA Coast" has a wealth of information on wetland depletion, development issues, slide shows, photos, 360 degree virtual reality video clips, and a kid's corner.

[link https://web.archive.org/web/20180814043316/http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/coastline/ 'American Coastlines, NOAA' description imagesmall]