Monastery Beach, Carmel, California is a pocket beach that sits within 200 m of the head of Carmel Submarine Canyon. Coarse to very coarse sand covers both the beach and adjacent shelf; in the latter area incoming waves have shaped the sand into large oscillation ripples. The accessibility of this area and a variable wave climate produce a unique opportunity to study large-scale coarse-grained ripples in a high-energy environment. These ripples, which only occur in very coarse sand, form under the intense, wave-generated currents that exist during storm conditions. Once formed, these ripples do not significantly change under lower energy waves. On three separate occasions scuba divers measured ripples and collected sand samples from ripple crests near fixed reference stakes along three transects. Ripple wavelength and grain size decreased with an increase in water depth. Sediment sorting was best closest to the surf zone and poorest at the rim of Carmel Canyon. Cobbles and gravel observed in ripple troughs represent lag deposits.
Carmel Canyon refracts waves approaching Monastery Beach such that wave energy is focused towards the northern and southern portions of the beach, leaving the central part of the beach lower in energy. This energy distribution causes spatial variations in the ripples and grain sizes with the shortest wavelengths and smallest grain sizes being in the central part of the shelf.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
A field study of large-scale oscillation ripples in a very coarse-grained, high-energy marine environment