Earth observation coupled with novel image analysis techniques now present a unique and powerful tool for the historical study of shoreline change at local to global scale. However, satellite-derived shoreline (SDS) data is limited in certain areas and is associated with large uncertainties relating to environmental factors, tidal range, and wave action. We use 14 years of monthly topographic surveys at two macrotidal sites in the UK representing end members of beach type (reflective, dissipative) to investigate the influence of tidal elevation and wave action on SDS accuracy. We find that applying appropriate water level corrections can significantly improve SDS accuracy. Results show that a different approach is required for water level definition depending on beach type and reveal that ultimately SDS accuracy is primarily controlled by beach state (beach profile shape). Accounting for tidal elevation led to substantial accuracy improvement at both sites and formed the optimal SDS strategy for the reflective site (Slapton). At the dissipative site (Perranporth) considering wave-induced water level fluctuations (wave setup and/or runup), including wave shoaling, was critical for reducing the tidally corrected SDS RMSE by a third and the mean bias by three quarters. An important realization for areas with high cloud cover such as the UK, and/or low satellite coverage, was that critically low image availability restricts temporally the type of phenomenon that can be detected (e.g., seasonal/interannual variability) and may compromise computed longterm trends. Our results suggest that the optimal approach is site-specific and depends on the shoreline translation method used and is therefore different depending on the application. We propose optimal SDS strategies to increase confidence in SDS extraction in meso-macrotidal environments with potentially low satellite useability (i.e., high cloud cover and/or low satellite coverage) depending on the spatial scale of the intended application. Long-term trends derived using this approach can reproduce trends from ground-based surveys and therefore enable more accurate projections of future shoreline position to be made.



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Marine Geology





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School of Biological and Marine Sciences