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Beach Erosion Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lauren Scott

Lauren has a Master's degree in special education and has taught for more than 10 years.

This lesson discusses the causes and effects of beach erosion. You will learn what causes beach erosion, how human activity affects it, and how coastal areas try to prevent it.

What is Beach Erosion?

It can ruin the perfect beach day. You're running toward your favorite swimming spot at top speed, when SPLAT! You go off a mini sand cliff, and fall flat on your face. What happened?! That cliff wasn't there last summer! What just sneaked up on you is a process called erosion.

Beach erosion is the loss of beach sand, usually from a combination of wind and water movement. Sand is picked up off the beach, and transferred to deeper water, or to another coastal spot. This process makes beaches appear shorter and lower. You can sometimes see a sharp drop-off in the sand level after a strong erosion event.

What Causes Erosion?

Beach erosion is usually caused by ocean currents and waves. The energy of the moving water pulls sand away from the shore. High winds speed up erosion. It is very common to see severe erosion after a hurricane or a strong storm.

Wind and water carve away large amounts of sand.
Beach erosion

Human activities can make erosion worse. Building along the coast can damage sand dunes, which are mounds of sand that separate the lower beach from higher ground. The roots of dune grasses help anchor the sand in place and prevent water from going too far inland. If those plants are damaged, the dunes may wash away. People sometimes build walls called jetties that stick out into the ocean and change the movement of the sand. If they aren't built carefully, they can speed up erosion in some spots.

Why is Beach Erosion a Problem?

It's important to remember that erosion is mostly a natural process. Coastal areas have been changing with erosion and sand movement for ages. It becomes a problem when human activity speeds up erosion, or when buildings and roads are close enough to the ocean to be damaged. In these cases, beach erosion can cause flooding, and can even make whole buildings collapse.

Beach erosion can threaten buildings and roads.
Irene erosion

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