In oceanography, geomorphology, and earth sciences, a shoal is a natural submerged ridge, bank, or bar that consists of, or is covered by, sand or other unconsolidated material, and rises from the bed of a body of water to near the surface. Often it refers to those submerged ridges, banks, or bars that rise near enough to the surface of a body of water as to constitute a danger to navigation. Shoals are also known as sandbanks, sandbars, or gravelbars. Two or more shoals that are either separated by shared troughs or interconnected by past and/or present sedimentary and hydrographic processes are referred to as a shoal complex.

The term shoal is also used in a number of ways that can be either similar or quite different from how it is used in the geologic, geomorphic, and oceanographic literature. Sometimes, this terms refers to either (1) any relatively shallow place in a stream, lake, sea, or other body of water; (2) a rocky area on the sea floor within an area mapped for navigation purposes; (3) a growth of vegetation on the bottom of a deep lake that occurs at any depth; (4) and as a verb for the process of proceeding from a greater to a lesser depth of water.

Shoals are characteristically long and narrow (linear) ridges. They can develop where a stream, river, or ocean current promotes deposition of sediment and granular material, resulting in localized shallowing (shoaling) of the water. Marine shoals also develop either by the in place drowning of barrier islands as the result of episodic sea level rise or by the erosion and submergence of inactive delta lobes.

Shoals can appear as a coastal landform in the sea, where they are classified as a type of ocean bank, or as fluvial landforms in rivers, streams, and lakes.

A shoal–sandbar may seasonally separate a smaller body of water from the sea, such as:

The term bar can apply to landform features spanning a considerable range in size, from a length of a few metres in a small stream to marine depositions stretching for hundreds of kilometers along a coastline, often called barrier islands.

This page was last edited on 28 March 2018, at 11:42.
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