• beach
    This pebble beach, in Pebble Beach, looks out over the Pacific Ocean.

    Photograph by Michele Sutton, My Shot

    Beach Art: Sand Castles And Sculptures
    Have you ever visited a beach during a sand-sculpture contest? Sand artists can carve sculptures more than a meter (3 feet) high. Sand art is for much more than castles. In 2008, sculptors in Dorset, England, built the world's only sand hotel. This structure was complete with two beds, a couch, night stands, and a grand entrance, all made of sand. The hotel lasted until the next rainstorm.

    Fossil Beach
    A fossil beach may not be a beach at all. Fossil beaches are ancient coastlines, millions of years old, that have been preserved because of a change in sea level. Fossils of ancient animals, plants, and algae may be excavated dozens or even hundreds of kilometers inland, on the shore of an ancient sea that has since dried up.

    One of the most famous fossil beaches, however, is still a beach. The so-called Jurassic Coast, in southwestern Great Britain, has thousands of fossils of ancient plants, fish, insects, and reptiles.

    Best Beaches
    Environmental scientist Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman is known as Dr. Beach. Every year, Dr. Beach makes a list of the top 10 beaches in the United States. Dr. Beach judges beaches based on 50 criteria, including sand softness, wind speed, water temperature, presence of runoff, public safety, rip currents, and pollution. Read about Dr. Beach and the science of beaches here.

    Dr. Beachs Top 10 for 2012:
    1. Coronado Beach, California
    2. Kahanamoku Beach,Hawaii
    3. East Hampton, New York
    4. St. George Island State Park, Florida
    5. Hamoa Beach, Hawaii
    6. Coast Guard Beach, Massachusetts
    7. Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Hawaii
    8. Cape Florida State Park, Florida
    9. Beachwalker Park, South Carolina
    10. Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

    A beach is a narrow strip of land that lies along the edge of an ocean, lake, or river. Materials such as sand, pebbles, rocks, and seashell fragments cover beaches.

    Beaches are created as wind and waves crush rocks and other materials into tiny sand grains. This process is called erosion. Beaches are always changing, because wind and waves are always picking up sand from one place and leaving it in another.

    Types of Beaches

    There are many different kinds of beaches.

    Sandy beaches: Beach sand can come from many different places. Some sand may come from underwater rocks. Other sand may come from nearby cliffs. Pensacola Beach, Florida, has white, sandy beaches. Most of this white sand comes all the way from the Appalachian Mountains, hundreds of kilometers away.

    Rocky beaches: Some beaches are not sandy at all. They are covered with flat rocks called shingles or rounded rocks called cobbles. A storm beach is a type of shingle beach that is often hit by heavy storms.

    Barrier beaches: Barrier beaches protect the inland area, where most people live and work, from powerful ocean waves.

    River beaches: Beaches near rivers are often muddy or soft. Soil and sediment from the river is carried to the river’s mouth, where it empties into the ocean or lake.

    Beach Colors

    Beaches can be many different colors. Coral beaches, common on warm, tropical islands, are white and powdery. They are made from the skeletons of tiny animals called corals. Some coral beaches have pink sand. The corals that created these beaches were red.

    Some islands created by volcanoes have black beaches. The sand on Punaluu Beach, Hawaii, is was created as black lava hardened in the ocean.

    Some beaches are green. The sand on these beaches is made of a mineral called olivine.

    Threats to Beaches

    Beaches are often in danger due to coastal erosion, sea level rise, and  pollution.

    Coastal erosion is the natural process of the beach moving due to waves, storms, and wind.

    Sea level rise is the rising level of the ocean. If the sea level rises enough, some beaches sink underwater.

    Pollution is the build-up of garbage and waste. Waves wash up garbage from the ocean, while drainage pipes or rivers deposit waste from inland areas.

    Reducing pollution is an important way to protect beaches. Beachgoers and should always put their trash in a garbage or recycling bin. This protects the beach and the ocean. Even people living far from the beach should not throw garbage into a local stream or street. Eventually, that garbage can also end up on a beach . . or closer to home!

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    algae Plural Noun

    (singular: alga) diverse group of aquatic organisms, the largest of which are seaweeds.

    bacteria Plural Noun

    (singular: bacterium) single-celled organisms found in every ecosystem on Earth.

    barrier beach Noun

    strip of coastal land that protects the inland area from being battered by waves and storm surges.

    basalt Noun

    type of dark volcanic rock.

    beach Noun

    narrow strip of land that lies along a body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: beach
    beach berm Noun

    part of a beach above the water, or only covered at high tide.

    beach pollution Noun

    debris or garbage that has washed ashore from a body of water.

    beach profile Noun

    landscape of a beach, both above and below the water.

    characteristic Adjective

    particular feature of an organism.

    cliff Noun

    steep wall of rock, earth, or ice.

    Encyclopedic Entry: cliff
    coastal erosion Noun

    wearing away of earth or sand on the beach by natural or man-made methods.

    cobble Noun

    large, smooth, rounded rocks.

    coral Noun

    tiny ocean animal, some of which secrete calcium carbonate to form reefs.

    current Noun

    steady, predictable flow of fluid within a larger body of that fluid.

    Encyclopedic Entry: current
    dam Noun

    structure built across a river or other waterway to control the flow of water.

    debris Noun

    remains of something broken or destroyed; waste, or garbage.

    development Noun

    growth, or changing from one condition to another.

    Encyclopedic Entry: development
    drainage pipe Noun

    tube that carries wastewater or other material away from a home or business.

    dredge Verb

    to remove sand, silt, or other material from the bottom of a body of water.

    El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Noun

    climate pattern in which coastal waters become warmer in the eastern tropical Pacific (El Nio), and atmospheric pressure decreases at the ocean surface in the western tropical Pacific (Southern Oscillation).

    erosion Noun

    act in which earth is worn away, often by water, wind, or ice.

    Encyclopedic Entry: erosion
    excavate Verb

    to expose by digging.

    exoskeleton Noun

    the hard external shell or covering of some animals.

    fertile Adjective

    able to produce crops or sustain agriculture.

    fragment Noun

    piece or part.

    gem Noun

    mineral, rock, or organic material that can be cut and polished for use in jewelry.

    geologist Noun

    person who studies the physical formations of the Earth.

    habitat Noun

    environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: habitat
    intertidal zone Noun

    region between the high and low tide of an area.

    landscape Noun

    the geographic features of a region.

    Encyclopedic Entry: landscape
    lava Noun

    molten rock, or magma, that erupts from volcanoes or fissures in the Earth's surface.

    living shoreline Noun

    method of creating coastal land by using stones and marine grasses to trap soil, sand, and mud.

    Encyclopedic Entry: living shoreline
    marine mammal Noun

    an animal that lives most of its life in the ocean but breathes air and gives birth to live young, such as whales and seals.

    medical waste Noun

    material thrown away from healthcare facilities such as hospitals, including blood, tissue, and medical instruments.

    meteorologist Noun

    person who studies patterns and changes in Earth's atmosphere.

    mineral Noun

    nutrient needed to help cells, organs, and tissues to function.

    mining Noun

    process of extracting ore from the Earth.

    mouth Noun

    place where a river empties its water. Usually rivers enter another body of water at their mouths.

    Encyclopedic Entry: mouth
    nutrient Noun

    substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.

    Encyclopedic Entry: nutrient
    organism Noun

    living or once-living thing.

    particle Noun

    small piece of material.

    pebble Noun

    very small, rounded rock.

    pollution Noun

    introduction of harmful materials into the environment.

    Encyclopedic Entry: pollution
    raw sewage Noun

    liquid waste from homes and industry.

    reef Noun

    a ridge of rocks, coral, or sand rising from the ocean floor all the way to or near the ocean's surface.

    resort Noun

    facility or space people go to relax in a luxury setting.

    sand Noun

    small, loose grains of disintegrated rocks.

    sandbar Noun

    underwater or low-lying mound of sand formed by tides, waves, or currents.

    sea level rise Noun

    increase in the average reach of the ocean. The current sea level rise is 1.8 millimeters (.07 inch) per year.

    seawall Noun

    barrier built to protect a beach or shoreline from erosion. Also called a bulkhead.

    sediment Noun

    solid material transported and deposited by water, ice, and wind.

    Encyclopedic Entry: sediment
    shingle Noun

    large, flat pebble.

    soil Noun

    top layer of the Earth's surface where plants can grow.

    storm surge Noun

    abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm. Also called a storm tide.

    Encyclopedic Entry: storm surge
    tide Noun

    rise and fall of the ocean's waters, caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun.

    Encyclopedic Entry: tide
    tide pool Noun

    small pond created by an ebb tide and submerged by a high tide.

    tourism Noun

    the industry (including food, hotels, and entertainment) of traveling for pleasure.

    toxic Adjective

    poisonous.

    vegetation Noun

    all the plant life of a specific place.

    volcanic island Noun

    land formed by a volcano rising from the ocean floor.

    weathering Noun

    the breaking down or dissolving of the Earth's surface rocks and minerals.

    Encyclopedic Entry: weathering
    weather system Noun

    movement of warm or cold air.

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