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Building with Nature Guideline > Toolbox > Monitoring > Monitoring of coastal morphodynamics using satellite imagery

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Monitoring of coastal morphodynamics using satellite imagery 

Type: Method

Project Phase: Planning and Design

Purpose: Predicting coastal morphodynamics in response to interventions 

Requirements: Python programming skills, GIS, knowledge of natural processes 

Relevant Software: Google Earth Engine, GIS


This tool aims to use observed morphodynamical changes of any coastal system during the last 30 years to predict future morphological effects to coastal interventions. This is done by the analysis of LandSat satellite imagery using Google Earth Engine. This platform enables quick selection and analysis of satellite imagery, using Google storage space and processing capacity. Since the first useful LandSat imagery was recorded in the early 1980’s, over 30 years of imagery is available for every place on earth. By first assessing past morphological changes along the coast where an intervention is planned, the morphodynamical system can be understood and predictions of future effects to interventions can be better predicted. These observed changes in the past also provide a valuable dataset to test the performance of models.

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How to use

Users are advised to familiarise themselves with interventions that have been carried out in the coastal area of interest in the previous decades. In addition, knowledge of Python programming is essential for using Google Earth Engine. Google earth engine is freely available, and so are the available satellite images. A google account and subscription to Google Earth engine is mandatory.

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Practical applications

The tool was developed and applied in the Building with Nature sand motors along the Frisian Ijsselmeer Coast. In this project, it was used to assess the effect of measures that were proposed during design sessions for Building with Nature measures. It contributed to the system knowledge, and exposed knowledge gaps.  It also provided useful estimates of the sand transport capacity of the coastal system, which was essential knowledge to estimate the effect of interventions.

  • Assessing past morphodynamical effects to previous interventions along the Frysian Ijsselmeer coast
  • Assessing whether a coast is naturally eroding or prograding
  • Estimating sediment transport processes, magnitudes and velocities along coasts
  • Building datasets to test models 

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