Saturday, January 21, 2012

COAST: Wave Cut Platform

A wave-cut platform, or shore platform is the narrow flat area often found at the base of a sea cliff or along the shoreline of a lake, bay, or sea that was created by the action of waves. Wave-cut platforms are often most obvious at low tide when they become visible as huge areas of flat rock. Sometimes the landward side of the platform is covered by sand, forming the beach, and then the platform can only be identified at low tides or when storms move the sand.

It forms after destructive waves hit against the cliff face, causing undercutting between the high and low water marks, mainly as a result of corrasion and hydraulic power, creating a wave-cut notch. This notch then enlarges into a cave. The waves undermine this portion until the roof of the cave cannot hold due to the pressure and freeze-thaw weathering acting on it, and collapses, resulting in the cliff retreating landward. The base of the cave forms the wave-cut platform as attrition causes the collapsed material to be broken down into smaller pieces, while some cliff material may be washed into the sea. This may be deposited at the end of the platform, forming an off-shore terrace.

Because of the continual wave action, a wave-cut platform represents an extremely hostile environment and only the toughest of organisms can utilize such a niche.

The formation of wave cut platform

1. Original position of cliff

2. Cliff retreats

3. Present position of cliff

4. Sea level (high tide)

5. Wave cut notch at foot of cliffs

6. Wave cut platform

Wave-cut platform at Southerndown, South Wales

Wave-cut platforms from Lake Bonneville(Pleistocene), Utah.

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