Australian beach at Byron Bay shrinks as sand disappears

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Byron Bay (Australia) (AFP)

Byron Bay, Australia typically conjures up images of bathers basking on sunny shores or blissful longboarders cruising along cyan blue waves – but coastal erosion and meteoric storms have reduced its seashore to a landslide littered with debris.

The main beach of the tourist hotspot has been reduced to a thin strip by a sand shifting phenomenon known as “headland bypass”. The recent wild storms then eroded it further.

For over six months, residents watched helplessly as the beach slowly disappeared due to what scientists say is the natural process of bypassing the sand on the headlands.

This happens when the sand moves from beach to beach around a rocky promontory or cape, largely due to wave energy, before finally receding.

In recent days, major storms have brought strong winds and big waves, which have combined with high tides to worsen the sand loss – leaving the beach reduced to a fraction of itself.

Tom Murray, a coastal management researcher at Griffith University, said interventions such as dredging and artificial bypassing were not viable solutions to the problem.

“By the time the environmental assessments and legal processes are over, that will naturally have corrected,” he told public broadcaster ABC.

Murray said that while climate change is affecting wave pattern, any impact this could have on the bypassing of headland sand remains “poorly understood” and more research is needed.

Local media reported that lifeguards were forced to close the beach to swimmers in October after running out of space to set up their equipment.

Authorities resorted to sandbagging in some areas as they attempted to consolidate unstable sand dunes.

Parts of Australia’s east coast have seen severe storms, with heavy rains causing rivers to overflow, and authorities issued flood evacuation orders in northern New South Wales on Tuesday .

However, the rain also brought welcome relief to firefighters battling Australia’s first major summer blaze, helping to put out a massive bushfire on Fraser Island in Queensland.

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