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PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY Beach Formation in California coast Beaches are dynamic landforms altered by wind and waves in a continual process of creation and erosion Seasonal cycles of sand deposition and loss dramatically affect the appearance of beaches from summer to winter Wide and gently sloping in summer they become steep-fronted and narrow in winter and cam vanish overnight stripped of sand by violent storm waves Most of the sand removed from winter beaches is deposited in offshore sandbars and is returned to the beach during the mild summer months by gentle swells that push the sand to the exposed shore River sediments are the source of 80 to 90 per cent of beach sand some beaches are built to great widths by sediments washed to the sea by episodic floods gradually eroding until the next major flood replenishes the sand Beach formation begins as eroded continental material--sand gravel and cobble fragments--is washed to sea by streams and rivers Two separate processes result in the deposit of this sand and sediment on the shore Most sediment is suspended in sea water and transported along the coast by the longshore current a stream of water flowing parallel to the beach that is created by the action of waves breaking at an angle to shore Longshore transport can deliver up to a million cubic yards of sediment annually to a single beach In the second process sand deposited onshore by the longshore current is then oscillated by waves breaking onto and receding from the beach This continual onshore-offshore movement gradually pushes the sand along the beach edge both the longshore transport of sediment along the coast and the movement of sand by waves along the foreshore are a part of the process called littoral drift The California coastline has been divided into geographic segments called littoral cells that incorporate a complete cycle of beach sediment supply sand transport by the longshore current and
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