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The unusual factors causing popular Aussie beach's collapse

·News Reporter
·3-min read

Byron Bay’s Main Beach being devoured by water has been put down to “unusual” circumstances as wild weather continues to lash northern NSW.

The bay received 33mm in the 24 hours leading up to 9am Monday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

BOM meteorologist Dean Narramore said “major coastal erosion” is expected to impact from South East Queensland to the NSW Central Coast. It’s forecast to worsen too, he said.

A man watches the severe swell which resulted in along stretch of beach erosion due to heavy rain on December 14, 2020 in Byron Bay, Australia.
A man watches as the severe swell hits Byron Bay. Source: Getty Images

Wind gusts of up to 104km/h were also detected at Cape Byron at about 9.23am.

People have been shocked by the impact the wild weather has had on Byron Bay’s Main Beach with the shore swallowed by water.

Byron Mayor Simon Richardson told the media on Monday “we’re watching our beach disappear”.

A man was filmed walking on a platform at Byron Bay on Monday before it collapsed beneath him into the ocean. Thankfully he wasn’t serious injured.

Dr Mitchell Harley, from UNSW’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, told Yahoo News Australia La Nina events can cause periodic erosion.

But it’s this combined with a process called “headland bypassing” which is causing Byron Bay’s Main Beach issues during the wild weather.

La Nina, a climate driver, is what scientists say is responsible for enhancing the intensity of rain. It was declared active earlier this year after last being present in 2011.

“It’s an unusual event as we already have an eroded beach due to the lack of sand around the headland at Byron Bay,” Dr Harley said.

“You then combine that with the fact it’s a La Nina year.”

Dr Harley said it could be months until the beach fully recovers however we shouldn’t be concerned about our beaches disappearing.

An erosion-damaged disabled access to Clarkes Beach at Byron Bay, NSW.
A disabled access platform damaged by soil erosion at Byron's Clarkes Beach. Source: AAP

Professor Rodger Tomlinson, from the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management, told the ABC last week Byron Bay has had erosion for a number of years.

Professor Tomlinson added the headland bypassing, which is what is blocking sand from being moved down the coastline by waves, is causing issues.

He said Cape Byron, which is the easternmost point of Australia, hasn’t seen its sand move south to Main Beach. It could also take years until the sand moves depending on the waves.

Beach Byron Bay Cafe facing danger caused by erosion along the beach side, in Byron Bay, Australia.
Beach Byron Bay Cafe is protected by sandbags. Source: Getty Images

Other concern over changing beaches

Steven Pearce from Surf Lifesaving NSW told reporters it’s “some of the largest coastal erosion we have seen for many years” and it’s changing the “entire landscape”.

“From our perspective what that means is that it changes the entire formation of the beaches and also starts to develop new permanent rips along beaches that have not necessarily had those rips previously,” Mr Pearce said.

A surfer climbs up an erosion-damaged beach access at Byron Bay, NSW.
A surfer traverses the erosion-damaged beach. Source: AAP

Mr Pearce added he’s concerned about the “onslaught of visitation” after the rain passes due to Covid-19.

“People will go to beaches where they think it has been safe previously but there will be new rips,” he said.

“The message is for people to be really aware about rips and swimming at patrolled locations where the red and yellow flags will be flying.”

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