An Analysis of Shoreline Change at Little Lagoon, Alabama

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Virginia Tech


In Alabama, the term "coastal shoreline" applies to the Gulf shoreline and the shorelines of estuaries, bays, and sounds connected to the Gulf of Mexico and subject to its tides. However, Alabama shoreline studies have yet to include Little Lagoon, which has been connected to the Gulf of Mexico for most of the last 200 years, according to historical charts. This study used historical nautical charts, aerial photographs, and LIDAR derived shorelines from 1917 to 2004 to analyze shoreline change on Little Lagoon and its adjacent Gulf shoreline. The high water line was used as the common reference feature, and all shorelines were georeferenced, projected, and digitized in a Geographic In-formation System.

Between 1917 and 2001, the Gulf shoreline eroded an average of 40 m over 12.7 km, with some transects eroding almost 120 m while others accreted almost 60 m. The greatest changes to the Gulf shoreline were found near natural inlets, downdrift of jetties, and coincident with nourishment projects. Between 1955 and 1997, Little Lagoon shrank 0.5%, or 51.4 km², from 10,285.9 km² to 10,234.5 km². The greatest changes to Little Lagoon were found on its southern shoreline and near inlets, human development, and hurricane overwash fans. A correlation analysis conducted on the Gulf shoreline and Little Lagoon' s southern shoreline indicated that although weak overall correlation values exist when the entire 12.7 km study area is compared, strong correlation values are obtained in some areas when compared over one kilometer sections. The strongest correlations were found in the same locations as the greatest changes.



Longshore Transport, Tidal Inlets, Shoreline Change