More than one type of shoreline indicator can be used in shoreline change analyses, and quantifying the effects of this practice on the resulting shoreline change rates is important. Comparison of three high water line (proxy-based) shorelines and a mean high water intercept (datum-based) shoreline collected from simultaneous aerial photographic and lidar surveys of a relatively steep reflective beach (tan β = 0.07), which experiences a moderately energetic wave climate (annual average Hs = 1.2 m), reveals an average horizontal offset of 18.8 m between the two types of shoreline indicators. Vertical offsets are also substantial and are correlated with foreshore beach slope and corresponding variations in wave runup. Incorporating the average horizontal offset into both a short-term, endpoint shoreline change analysis and a long-term, linear regression analysis causes rates to be shifted an average of −0.5 m/y and −0.1 m/y, respectively. The rate shift increases with increasing horizontal offset and decreasing measurement intervals and, depending on the rapidity of shoreline change rates, is responsible for varying degrees of analysis error. Our results demonstrate that under many circumstances, the error attributable to proxy-datum offsets is small relative to shoreline change rates and thus not important. Furthermore, we find that when the error associated with proxy-datum offsets is large enough to be important, the shoreline change rates themselves are not likely to be significant.
A total water level model reveals that the high water line digitized by three independent coastal labs for this study was generated by a combination of large waves and a high tide several days before the collection of aerial photography. This illustrates the complexity of the high water line as a shoreline indicator and calls into question traditional definitions, which consider the high water line a wetted bound or “marks left by the previous high tide.”