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MONDAY SEPTEMBER 25 - LITTORAL DRIFT ALONG THE DELAWARE SHORE
Tons of sand, pebbles, and other material get moved up and down the beach
each year. This transport is called littoral drift.
The two most powerful influences on this drift along the Delaware and
Jersey coasts are nor'easters and the sea breeze, and each has its own season.
In summer, the
sea breeze dominates with southeast winds,
so waves tend to
approach the beach from that direction. This creates a subtle movement of
water and sand to the north. In winter,
nor'easters cause much of the littoral
drift. Their not-so-subtle northeast winds and pounding waves move sand in
the opposite direction, to the south.
On average, the sea-breeze effect wins out along the Delaware Coast,
overall drift of sand
is to the north. The tip of South Jersey
is partly responsible, because it helps to shield the Delaware coast from
the pounding of nor'easters. But the farther south you go, the less the
shielding. By the time you get to Fenwick Island, the drift to the north
due to sea breezes and the drift to the south due to nor'easters approximately
balance each other out.
Interestingly, south of Fenwick, the influence of nor'easters beats out the
sea-breeze effect, so the
overall drift there is south, helping to
ever-so-slowly build the beaches of Ocean City, Maryland.