Coastal Processes and Storms


Coastal processes are complex and dynamic.

Our current dune system was created 8,000 years ago. The geological history of the coastline and coastal processes have all contributed to the present formation of our Shire's coastline. 

Processes such as erosion and recession are reoccurring at a significant rate in the Byron area. Coastal processes can impact on our use of the coast and development of coastal land and assets. Climate change and forecast sea level rise are important to consider as we plan for our future.

Our wave climate is a generally persistent long period (10-12 second waves) of low to moderate energy swell from the southeast. Wave climate is predicted to change to a more easterly direction, and this may have implications for north/south facing beaches as sand moves and is depleted.

A history of storms

A brief history of storms and coastal damage in the Byron Shire between 1888 and 2022 is provided below.

Year/period Damage and event summary 
2022 Ex Tropical Cyclone Seth welcomed January 2022 with a large wave event combined with king tides. Byron Shire’s beaches fared well apart from localised erosion at west Main Beach, Cavvanbah and Belongil. Wave over-topping and erosion impacted some of Council’s beach access ways.  
2020/21 December large wave event combined with elevated water and king tides acting on an already severely depleted beach profile in the eastern beaches of the Byron Bay Embayment.
2019 Tropical Cyclone Oma in February generated significant east to north-easterly swell combined with abnormally high tides. Significant erosion of eastern beaches of the Byron Bay Embayment. Abnormally higher than normal tides combined with a moderate storm in early July caused erosion and recession of frontal dunes.
2016  "Black" North-easterly swell event yielded various erosion impacts to beaches through interference with littoral sand transport.  Appears to have started an erosion trend that continued into 2020.
2013 Ex tropical cyclone Oswald marked the beginning of an erosion cycle sustained for a number of months by moderate easterly swell events / east coast lows on spring tides.
2009 May: Extensive erosion from an East Coast Low and following swell on king tides.
2001 Extensive erosion from an East Coast Low.
1999 Extensive erosion from storms and a large swell event.
1996 Extensive erosion from East Coast Low.
1984 Esplanade Road on Belongil Beach lost to the sea via erosion.
1974 February – Cyclone Pam caused extensive and severe coastal erosion and property loss including Sheltering Palms Village.
May/June – severe coastal erosion.
1972 to 1973 Severe coastal erosion, remains of jetty removed.
1955 to 1956 Period of severe coastal erosion.
1954 Cyclone, extensive and severe erosion, damage to new jetty, all 26 fishing boats lost.
1948 New jetty damaged and six fishing boats lost.
1933 to 1936 Period of severe and extensive beach erosion.
1928 New jetty built (610 m long) due to damage to old jetty from heavy seas.
1921 'MV Wollongbar' wrecked off Byron Bay in an easterly gale.
1889 to 1896 Numerous shipwrecks in the area from easterly gales and storms.


For further information, see weblinks and documents in the supporting information of this page.