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Some Atlantic Coast Beaches Are Shrinking While Florida's Beaches Better Off Than Most

GAINESVILLE --- Other states aren't so lucky, but when beachgoers in Florida dig their toes in the sand this summer, they may be glad to know many of the state's shores are in little danger of washing away -- and some are even getting larger.

Contrary to popular perception and the trend in most other states on the East Coast, Florida's beaches generally are not falling victim to coastal erosion or steadily rising sea levels, a new University of Florida study has found. In fact, despite areas of serious erosion, east coast beaches are actually experiencing an average increase in size. Beaches on Florida's west coast are remaining about the same size on average, the study found.

"I think it leads to cautious optimism," said Bob Dean, a UF coastal engineering professor and the lead investigator in the study. "The sky is not falling -- not right away, anyway. And we should consider our state to be unique in this respect."

Dean and several graduate students analyzed available historical and recent shoreline measurement data in Florida's 24 counties with sandy beaches, including 12 on the Gulf coast and 12 on the Atlantic coast. Measurement records dating back at least a century were available for all counties.

The researchers, who used the data to create an atlas outlining the shoreline change for each county, discovered "a lot of surprising things," Dean said. Among the most significant of their findings is that beaches on Florida's east coast are increasing in size on average at the rate of about 4 inches each year, he said.

In contrast, beaches in other Atlantic states are shrinking or disappearing on average, some very quickly, Dean said. For example, Virginia's coast retreats as much as 10 feet annually, he said. Only one other Atlantic state -- New York -- is experiencing a similar average net gain in its beach sizes, Dean said.

Dean said a couple of factors have led to Florida's special pr
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Contact: Aaron Hoover
Ahoover@ufl.edu
352-392-0186
University of Florida
4-May-1999


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