sea cliff

a cliff formed by wave erosion, usu at the landward portion of a wave-cut platform; commonly the landward limit of the shorezone and the dominant feature of mountainous coastlines.


the coast adjacent to a sea or ocean. Syn: coast, seaboard.

sediment budget

an inventory of all sources and sinks (losses) of sediment for the littoral cell.

sediment flux

the transport rate of sediment past a given point or through a given plane (mass or volume/time).

sediment rating curve

the relation between measured streamflow (e.g., Q, m3/s) and measured sediment flux (e.g., J, ton/s) in a stream usu of the form J = aQb where a and b are constants derived from the least-squares best-fit to the data.

sediment yield

the mass or volume of material removed from the land through processes of soil erosion, usu determined by deposition in catchment basins or measured in transit by streamflow (mass or volume/area A time). Net yield is usu taken as the sediment flux in a stream divided by the drainage area. It is the gross yield of sediment due to soil erosion of the land minus the material retained in dams, valley fill, and stream channels.

seismic record (geophysics)

a display of the energy received from a sound pulse, such as an air gun or sparker, that is used to determine the configuration of strata generating reflections from below the ground or sea floor. Cf: subbottom. Syn: echogram.

sheet erosion

the removal of layers of soil from the land surface by the action of rainfall and runoff in the form of sheetflow. It is the first stage in water erosion and is followed by rill erosion.


thin, uniform film of runoff water preceding the formation of rills.


the strip of land and very shallow water bordering any body of water. Syn: beach. Cf: shorezone.


the line where a body of water and the beach or shore meet; also the strip of sand along this line: specifically, the intersection of a specified plane of water level with the beach, e.g., mean sea level (MSL) shoreline, mean high water (MHW) shoreline, etc.

shore platform

see platform, wave-cut terrace.


the transition between the continental shelf and the beach, marked by the increase in slope leading from the gently sloping shelf up to the beach proper. It extends from the closure depth to the breakpoint-bar.


the landward portion of the nearshore. It extends from the depth where waves move sediment, landward to the highest point acted upon by waves during storms, and includes the shorerise and the beach or shore.

still water level (SWL)

the level of the water surface in the absence of waves.

storm bar

the bar formed under storm waves that break along a beach; a longshore bar formed at the breakpoint of storm waves. Cf: breakpoint bar, longshore bar.

storm berm

a nearly horizontal berm formed by storm waves; it is usu found landward and above a "summer" berm. Syn: winter berm.

storm scarp

a steep inclination on the beach backshore formed by the cutting of storm waves.


rate at which water (or more broadly total fluids plus dissolved/suspended sediment load) passes a given point along a stream channel (volume/time). Syn: fluid discharge.

subbottom (geophysics)

the layer of discontinuity below the surface of the seabed sediment that returns sound energy; the layer may be sand, cobbles, or bedrock. Cf: seismic record.


a segment of a larger littoral cell within which a local budget of sediment is obtained; occasionally one or more pocket beaches.


wave activity in the surf zone; the area between the high tide line and 3 m depth. Cf: shallow water, very shallow water.

surf base

the depth at which storm waves begin to peak and break. Syn: breaker depth. Cf: abrasion limit.

surf zone

the area traversed by breaking waves and their bores and swash; it extends from the wave breakpoints to the maximum runup of the swash.

suspended load

particulate solids, including sand and fine material (silt and clay), that are carried within the moving fluid.


the uprush and backwash of water on the beach face following breaking of a wave.

synoptic model

computer model coded to look for trends and patterns within vast amounts of data and then associate these patterns with future trends to make forecasts. Syn: pattern model.

swash height

vertical distance between the lowest backwash and the maximum uprush.