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Rock control on the shape of coastal embayments of north-western Hornsund, Svalbard

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A 17.6 km section of coastline in Hornsund, SW Svalbard is analysed to assess the role of geology in shaping rocky coasts at the macro-scale (100s m to km), with the focus on headland/embayment alternation. The study combines geomorphometry to quantify coastline shape, analysis of lithological variation, strike and dip, all derived from detailed geological maps, and results of rock strength determinations in the field (Schmidt hammer R-value) and through laboratory tests (Point Load Strength Index). The plan-view shape of the coastline is characterized by form factor, sinuosity index and coefficient of asymmetry. Lithology and structure are dominant controls and generally, more diverse lithology translates into more diverse coastline, highlighting the role of selective erosion. Numerical values of form factor (embayment depth/width) and sinuosity index are the highest when bedding is parallel to general coastline outline. Absolute embayment depth increases with growing number of lithological boundaries intersecting the coastline. Cliff retreat in weaker rocks appears more uniform, resulting in less indented coastline. From methodical point of view, we suggest that in foliated rocks Point Load Strength Index provides more meaningful information than Schmidt hammer R-values. Geomorphometry is a useful tool to characterize the shape of a coastline and simple indices have the power to discriminate between different types of embayments.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2017

This article was made available online on 24 January 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "Rock control on the shape of coastal embayments of north-western Hornsund, Svalbard".

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  • Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie main volume is a peer-reviewed international journal presenting original contributions of high scientific standard from all fields of geomorphology, encompassing basic research and applied studies. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie (ZfG) invites the submission of original papers from the entire field of geomorphological research, both applied and theoretical. Authors are encouraged to submit their papers to the editor-in-chief. Please peruse the instructions to authors (PDF) before submitting your paper.

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