Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Thomas Oommen


The Calvert Cliffs, which form much of the western coastline of the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County, Maryland, are actively eroding and destabilizing, resulting in a critical situation for many homes in close proximity to the slope's crest. Past studies have identified that where waves directly interact with the toe of the slope, wave action controls cliff recession; however, where waves do not regularly interact with the slope toe, the past work identified that freeze-thaw controls recession. This study investigated the validity of this second claim by analyzing the recession rate and freeze-thaw behavior of six study sites along the Calvert Cliffs that are not directly affected by waves. While waves do remove failed material from the toe, in these regions freeze-thaw is believed to be the dominant factor driving recession at the Calvert Cliffs. Past recession rates were calculated using historical aerial photographs and were analyzed together with a number of other variables selected to represent the freeze-thaw behavior of the Calvert Cliffs. The investigation studied sixteen independent variables and found that over 65% of recession at these study sites can be represented by the following five variables: (1) cliff face direction, (2 and 3) the percent of total cliff height composed of soil with freeze-thaw susceptibility F4 and F2, (4) the number of freeze-thaw cycles, and (5) the weighted shear strength. Future mitigation techniques at these sites should focus on addressing these variables and might include vegetation or addressing the presence of water along the face of the slope. Unmitigated, the Calvert Cliffs will continue to recede until a stable slope angle is reached and maintained.