GARY HINCKS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY GARY HINCKS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Coastal wave dynamics, artwork. Waves are formed by the action of the wind (dark blue arrow) on the water's surface. The action of the wind causes surface water to move in a vertical circular motion (circular arrows), and this motion causes water below it to move in a successively smaller circles. When the waves enter shallower water at the coast, the depth of the water becomes smaller than the circular region and the wave breaks. Breaking waves throw material onto a beach and then drag it back, processes known as swash and backswash respectively (red arrows). Behind the beach a system of sand dunes can form, which may protect a coastal lagoon.
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