Coastal Plain Physiography Topics

1. Regional Setting
2. General Physiography
3. Beaches and Shores
Sea Level Changes
4. Special Features
• Introduction to Physiography
• Coastal Plain
• Piedmont
• Mesozoic Basins
• Blue Ridge
• Valley and Ridge
• Appalachian Plateaus
• Virginia's Rivers


Beaches and Shores, Part 1

Virginia’s beaches and shores are complex systems.  Topics covered in this section are:

1. sea level changes

2. environments

Sea Level Changes

Sea level does not always stay the same.  The major processes that control sea level along Virginia’s coastline are:geologic processes; tides; storm surges; wind-wave action; and longshore and rip currents.

Geologic Processes

• Geologic processes, such as continental uplift or polar ice cap changes, can affect sea level.

lifting up; continents can rise
as a result of plate tectonics

• About 18,000 years ago, at the peak of the most recent glaciation, sea level was roughly 300 feet lower than today.

a time period when extensive glaciers developed, advanced,
and retreated; the Pleistocene Ice Age is an example of glaciation

• About 125,000 years ago, when ice caps were at a minimum, sea level was a few feet higher than now.

• Sea level can change because water rises or falls, or because the earth’s crust subsides or is uplifted.


• When water levels around the world rise and fall due to growth or melting of polar ice caps, sea level changes affect the whole world.

• When parts of the earth’s crust rise and fall due to tectonic forces, sea level changes are local.