Impact of sequence of extreme storms during 2013/14 winter on southwest coast of England

Lead Research Organisation: University of Plymouth
Department Name: Sch of Marine Science & Engineering

Abstract

During the 2013/2014 winter, the southwest coast of England experienced an unprecedented sequence of very energetic wave conditions, including 4 extremely energetic and named storms. According to the Met Office, the storm Hercules on 6 January 2014 was a 1:5 to 1:10 year wave event alone, whereas the storm Petra on 5 February 2014 was probably the most damaging storm in terms of coastal impact on the south coast of Devon and Cornwall for the last 50 years. Furthermore, analysis of modelled and measured wave data shows that the 8-week sequence of storms from mid-December 2013 to 10 February 2014 represents the most energetic period of waves to have hit the southwest coast of England since 1950, and thus represents at least a 1:60 year event. The collective impact of these Atlantic storms on the southwest coast of England has been enormous and this has been made obvious by the extensive media coverage of these events. Many changes to the coastal landscape are likely to be permanent and damage to coastal infrastructure will take months and tens of millions of £'s to repair.

This Urgency Proposal aims to assess the impacts of this sequence of extreme storms on both the physical and human coastal environment in the southwest of England, and evaluate the vulnerability of this region to such extreme Atlantic storms. The topic is timely and relevant, because the Met Office predicts that such energetic wave conditions will become more frequent in the future due to climate change. The urgency part of the proposed research will be the recording of direct storm impacts and the collection of a baseline data set for post-storm recovery; the follow-up aspects of the grant include the analysis of the field data, numerical modelling of the wave conditions, and assessment of the vulnerability and resilience of the coastal environment to such extreme wave events.

The study area includes the coastlines of the Duchy of Cornwall and the Counties of Somerset, Devon and Dorset, and exteds from Weston-super-Mare in the north to Bournemouth in the southeast, but the emphasis of the study will be on the coastline of Devon and Cornwall. The research project consists of five work packages: (1) coastal monitoring, involving the measurement of the physical changes caused by the extreme storms on a large number of sites (> 25) in the southwest of England; (2) bathymetric surveys at two selected sites on the north and south Cornish coast to determine storm impacts in the subtidal zone and the fate of the eroded beach sediments; (3) capturing the immediate experiences of local communities and responsible agencies using a combination of interviews, media analysis and social network analysis at c. 10 sites in the southwest of England; (4) wave analysis and modelling to investigate the spatial variability in the storm wave field and compare the 2013/2014 winter period with previous years; and (5) constructing a Atlantic Storm Coastal Impact Map for the southwest coast of England, using GoogleEarth as the platform, that represents an extensive catalogue of the coastal impacts (physical and human) related to the 2013/14 winter storm period, as well as a comprehensive overview of the forcing wave conditions.

This 12-month project will be carried out by researchers of the Coastal Processes Research Group and the Marine and Coastal Policy Research Centre at Plymouth University, with the Southwest Regional Coastal Monitoring Programme and the Met Office as project partners.

The six key outputs of the project are: (1) project website and facebook page to engage with the public; (2) article for Geography Journal to disseminate the research finding to A-level students; (3) at least one international conference presentation; (4) at least one scientific journal paper; (5) Atlantic Storm Coastal Impact Map; and (6) a one-day Stakeholder Workshop to bring together the various coastal stakeholders in an interactive forum.

Planned Impact

Non academic beneficiaries will include stakeholders at various levels, such as:

1. individuals living, working and visiting coastal areas
Individuals living, working and visiting coastal areas will benefit from sustainable maintenance of their environment informed by improved understanding of coastal storm impacts, both short and long term.

2. organisations including local government, coastal advisory groups and coastal landowners such as the National Trust
Organisations including local government, coastal advisory groups and coastal landowners, such as the National Trust, will benefit from close liaison with the project team providing advice on the impacts of storms at the coast short term, and longer term in adapting their work to incorporate these effects. For example, the project team already have collaborative ongoing projects and close working relationships with both the National Trust, who own many stretches of the southwest coastline, and the RNLI who provide lifeguards on many of the regions beaches. The ongoing project with the National Trust is a PhD examining coastal cliff erosion around Cornwall. This work has identified various erosion hotspots where cliffs are rapidly retreating, informing management decisions the National Trust make about re-routing the Southwest Coastal Footpath and coastal access roads, for example at Godrevy near St Ives. The ongoing work with the RNLI stems from our NERC grant Dynamics of Rip currents and Implications for Beach Safety (DRIBS; NE/H004262/1) and relates to beach and coastal hazards, particularly rip currents, helping to forecast risk and developing an education programme targeted at vulnerable demographic groups via a jointly funded PhD.

3. national government, DEFRA and the environment agency
National government, DEFRA and the Environment Agency will benefit from improved advice on coastal storm impacts which can be incorporated into guidance for future coastal management strategies and shoreline management plans longer term. For example, the project team are just completing a 3-year EPSRC research project New Understanding and Prediction of Storm Impacts on Gravel Beaches, (NUPSIG; EP/H040056/1), in collaboration with the Environment Agency, the Channel Coastal Observatory, Hydraulics Research (HR) and Deltares. HR (Wallingford UK) and Deltares (Delft, Netherlands) are two of Europe's leading environmental consultancy companies involved in coastal work. A key output of that project has been an adaptation of the state-of-the-art X-Beach numerical model, to include gravel beach processes. The resulting 'X-BeachG' numerical model is being provided to users with a user-friendly Graphic User Interface, and will be disseminated to users via a workshop hosted by the Channel Coastal Observatory.

The benefits to individuals, organisations and government agencies from the present project will primarily be achieved via six key outputs/deliverables:
1. Project website and facebook page
2. Article for Geography journal
3. High-level International conference presentation
4. Scientific journal paper
5. Coastal Impact Map
6. One-day Stakeholder Workshop organised by Cornwall Council
For details on each of these outputs/deliverables, refer to Pathways to Impact.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The southwest coast of England was subjected to an unusually energetic sequence of Atlantic storms during the 2013/2014 winter, with the 8-week period from mid-December to mid-February representing the most energetic period since at least 1953. A regional analysis of the hydrodynamic forcing and morphological response of these storms along the SW coast of England highlighted the importance of both storm- and site-specific conditions.The key factor that controls the Atlantic storm wave conditions along the south coast of southwest England is the storm track. Energetic inshore wave conditions along this coast require a relatively southward storm track which enables offshore waves to propagate
up the English Channel relatively unimpeded. The timing of the storm in relation to the tidal stage is also important, and coastal impacts along the macro-tidal southwest coast of England are maximised when the peak storm waves coincide with spring high tide. The role of storm surge is limited and rarely exceeds 1m. The geomorphic storm response along the southwest coast of England displayed considerable spatial variability; this is mainly attributed to the embayed nature of the coastline and the associated variability in coastal orientation. On west-facing beaches typical of the north coast, the westerly Atlantic storm waves approached the coastline shore-parallel, and the prevailing storm response was offshore sediment transport. Many of these north coast beaches experienced extensive beach and dune erosion, and some of the beaches were completely stripped of sediment, exposing a rocky shore platform.On the south coast, the westerly Atlantic stormwaves refract and diffract to become southerly inshore storm waves and for the southeast-facing beaches this results in large incident wave angles and strong eastward littoral drift. Many south coast beaches exhibited rotation, with the western part of the beaches eroding and the eastern part accreting.
Exploitation Route Local councils have been made aware of the findings and we have been involved with several consultancy projects. Since 2014 we, as a resesrch group, have given over 20 public talks about the findings of the project, mainly at 6th Form Colleges, but also GOs/NGOs (e.g., EA, Natural England, Field Studies Centres).
Sectors Education,Environment

URL https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/coastal-processes/nerc-urgency/coastal-impacts-project
 
Description We have communicated our findings to coastal managers through several meetings and workshops, and have also been consulted over the phone many times. The work has also resulted in the formulation and award of a new NERC grant (Special Highlights Topic): BLUEcoast. Due to the reputation build up through the work on extreme storm impacts, we now also contribute to consultancy projects, including the formulation of Beach Management Plans.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Education,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description 05/09/16 - British Geomorphological Society Annual Meeting, Plymouth, UK: 'Role of NAO in controlling multi-decadal coastal dynamics - a re-interpretation of the 'lost village of Hallsands' (GM) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 05/09/16 - British Geomorphological Society Annual Meeting, Plymouth, UK: 'Role of NAO in controlling multi-decadal coastal dynamics - a re-interpretation of the 'lost village of Hallsands'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited presentation Stormy Geomorphology Conference, London: Extreme storms, giant waves and coastal change, SW England 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact disucssion afterwards

raised awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Lecture at Geographical Association Annual Conference, University of Manchester: Impact of 2013/2014 storms on coastal geomorphology in SW England 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact discussion afterwards

raised awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Lecture for Institute of directors: Coastal impacts in SW England during 2013/2014 storm period 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact discussion afterwards

raised awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Lecture to A-level students at Ivybridge college: Storm impacts on coastal processes and geography 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact talk sparked discussion

raised awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Leminar for Coastal Team of Natural England at Exeter: Atlantic storm response along the southwest coast of England during 2013/12014 winter 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact discussion afterwards

raised awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Live-streamed research seminar to offices of CH"M-Hill consultancy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards

discussion on future collaboration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Presentation for retired academics in an informal setting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards

nothing notable
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Press release: New climate index based on atmospheric pressure produces more accurate predictions of storm wave conditions 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We issued a press release on our research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://blogs.agu.org/geospace/2017/02/06/new-climate-index-based-atmospheric-pressure-produces-accur...
 
Description Research seminar at University of Algarve 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact Talked sparked questions and discussion afterwards

Future collaboration was discussed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Seminar for POL/NOC at Liverpool University, Liverpool: Atlantic storm response along the southwest coast of England during 2013/12014 winter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact discussion afterwards

knowledge exchange
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Storm response presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I reported to the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Coastal Advisory Group (CISCAG) about last year's storm impacts
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Storm response presentation for Devon Maritime Forum Winter 2015 meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was a presentation as part of the Devon Maritime Forum Winter 2015 meeting, Understanding, Managing and Coping with Coastal Change. many question arose from the presentation, followed by discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.devonmaritimeforum.org.uk/index.php/meetings/dmf-meetings/400-tuesday-8th-december-2015-u...
 
Description Storm response seminar at Exeter University, School of Geography 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Storm response seminar at Exeter University, School of Geography, for a mixed audience, including academics, media and general public. Good discussion afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/events/details/index.php?event=5060
 
Description media appearances related to storm impact research 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact This is the full list of media appearances so far (I really do not have the time to produce a separate entry for each):
25/10/15 - Front page newspaper article in Western Morning News on Sunday ('Weather warning for homes on coast') (Gerd Masselink)
11/02/15 - Newspaper article in The Herald (Plymouth) ('Expert: we must prepare for more extreme weather') (Gerd Masselink)
10/02/15 - Newspaper article in Western Morning News ('Climate change puts West coast at risk') (Gerd Masselink)
10/02/15 - Newspaper article in Western Morning News ('We must learn to adapt over threat to our coastal zones') (Gerd Masselink)
04/02/15 - Newspaper article in The Herald (Plymouth) ('Winter waves were the hardest ever recorded') (Gerd Masselink)
04/02/15 - Newspaper article in Western Morning News ('Four fierce storms that shook Westcountry world harder than ever seen before') (Gerd Masselink)
04/02/15 - Live television interview on Spotlight BBC1 program ('Shaking cliffs') (Gerd Masselink)
04/02/15 - Newspaper article in Western Morning News ('Monster waves shook West like never before') (Gerd Masselink)
26/12/14 - Newspaper article in Kingsbridge Gazette ('Shingle shift') (Gerd Masselink)
3/12/14 - Front page newspaper article in The Herald (Plymouth) ('More stormy winters ahead') (Paul Russell)
31/10/14 - Newspaper article in Kingsbridge Gazette ('Village remains at risk') (Gerd Masselink)
18/11/14 - Newspaper article in The Herald (Plymouth) ('Experts say we may be in for another wild winter') (Paul Russell)
21/11/14 - Newspaper article in The Sidmouth Herald ('University's warning over exposed beach') (Gerd Masselink and Paul Russell)
20/11/14 - Newspaper article in The Exmouth Journal ('Experts fear for Exmouth this winter') (Gerd Masselink and Paul Russell)
18/11/14 - New item on Cornwall Pirate FM ('Warning Cornwall's coastline vulnerable to future storms') (Paul Russell)
18/11/14 - News item on SkyNews ('Coastal communities face winter threat') (Gerd Masselink)
18/11/14 - Recorded interviews for Cornwall Pirate FM and Radio Plymouth ('Lack of beach recovery leaves coastlines vulnerable') (Gerd Masselink)
6/11/14 - News item on BBC 1 Spotlight ('Lack of beach recovery leaves coastlines vulnerable, with live footage from Torcross') (Paul Russell)
10/10/14 - Interview by James Churchfield, BBC Radio Cornwall Breakfast Programme. Storm impact research. October 2014 (Tim Scott)
27/09/2014 - Newspaper article in Western Morning News ('Storm chaser warns against coastal homes')
25/09/2014 - Newspaper article in The Cornishman ('Could take years for beaches to recover')
24/09/2014 - Newspaper article in Cornish Guardian ('Sands of Time')
24/09/2014 - Newspaper article in Cornish Guardian ('Shifting sands? Newquay's Fistral beaches loses thousands of tonnes of sand'; http://www.cornishguardian.co.uk/Shifting-sands-Newquay-s-Fistral-beaches-loses/story-22967243-detail/story.html (Gerd Masselink)
23/09/2014 - Newspaper article in The Herald (Plymouth) ('Missing: a million tonnes of sand')
22/09/13 - Newspaper article in Daily Telegraph ('Beaches could take years to recover from storms') (Gerd Masselink)
21/09/2014 - Newspaper article in Western Morning News ('Beaches wrecked for up to 4 years'; http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Westcountry-beaches-wrecked-4-years/story-22967623-detail/story.html (Gerd Masselink)
16/09/2014 - News item on BBC1 Spotlight ('Storm impacts and recovery in SW England') (Gerd Masselink & Martin Attrill)
16/09/2014 - Web article on BBC News Cornwall ('South west winter storm-hit beaches slow to recover'. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-29219032) (Gerd Masselink)
13/09/2014 - Recorded interview, BBC Radio Devon, Good Morning Devon segment ('Rip current hazard increased due to winter storms') (Gerd Masselink)
14/09/2014 - Newspaper article in The Daily Telegraph ('Britain's beaches becoming more dangerous') (Gerd Masselink)
13/09/2014 - Newspaper article in The Herald (Plymouth) ('Climate change prompts safety fear') (Gerd Masselink)
12/09/2014 - Newspaper article in Western Morning News ('Safety warnings over Devon, Cornwall and Somerset's storm-lashed coasts'; http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Safety-warning-Devon-Cornwall-Somerset-s-storm/story-22914533-detail/story.html) (Gerd Masselink)
10/09/2014 - Newspaper article in Cornish Guardian ('Storms blamed for extra rip-current dangers'; http://www.cornishguardian.co.uk/Storms-blamed-extra-dangers/story-22898170-detail/story.html) (Gerd Masselink)
July 2014 - NERC podcast plus slide show ('Winter storms'): http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/multimedia/story.aspx?id=1682 (Gerd Masselink, Paul Russell)
14/06/2014 - Newspaper article in Western Morning News ('Bombshell for village left to repair its own sea defences'; http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Anger-town-told-flood-defences-won-t-repaired/story-21225699-detail/story.html. (Gerd Masselink)
13/06/2014 - Newspaper article in Kingsbridge and Salcombe Gazette ('Dredging up new causes of disaster - Lost village of Hallsands') (Gerd Masselink)
10/06/2014 - Live interview BBC Radio Devon ('Erosion at Hallsands') (Gerd Masselink)
12/05/2014 - BBC1 National primetime, 'The Storms that Shook the South West' (Paul Russell, Claire Earlie) www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b040r7q8
29/04/2014 - NERC podcast recording 'The storms that hit southwest England' (NERC Urgency grant; effect of extreme storms on coast of SW England) on Planet Earth Online; http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/multimedia/story.aspx?id=1682 (Gerd Masselink & Paul Russell)
12/04/2014 - Newspaper article, Western Daily Press ('Cliff-shaking storms could force South West's coastal communities to retreat as fierce weather returns'; http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Coast-clear-favourite-suffer/story-20951796-detail/story.html#ixzz35ekbgdLP)
11/04/2014 - BBC1 South West Inside Out special, 'The Storms that Shook the South West' (Paul Russell, Claire Earlie); www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b040r7q8
11/04/2014 - Newspaper article in the West Briton, 'Porthleven, Loe Bar and Perranporth on BBC programme The Storms That Shook The South West tonight'; http://legacy.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Porthleven-Loe-Bar-Perranporth-BBC-programme/story-20935066-detail/story.html#ixzz35emy4fsm
21/03/2014 - Newspaper article in the Western Morning News ('Southwest beaches need time to recover from storms'; http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/South-West-beaches-need-time-recover-storms/story-20986361-detail/story.html)
04/03/2014 - Western Morning News, editorial ('Extreme storms mean our coastal zone will have to adapt'; http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Extreme-storms-mean-coastal-zone-adapt/story-20752280-detail/story.html) (Gerd Masselink, Paul Russell & Steve Fletcher)
19/02/2014 - News item on SkyNews ('Coastal research and storms'; http://story.news-cloud.co.uk/SkyNewsUk/2014/02/19/CoastalErosionTenTimesWorseAfterStorms.html) (Gerd Masselink & Paul Russell)
11/02/2014 - Live interview BBC4 PM programme with Eddie Mair ('Rapid Coastal Response Unit') (Gerd Masselink)
11/02/2014 - Newspaper article in the Independent ('Storms in the SW of England'; http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/storm-chasers-the-team-of-wavechasing-academics-monitoring-the-storms-battering-the-south-coast-9119751.html)
07/02/2014 - Live interview BBC4 Today programme with Michelle Hussein ('Storms in the SW of England') (Gerd Masselink)


We had a very large number of media appearances related to storm impacts - one item led to another.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description public lecture: Where has our beach gone? - the science behind how waves and storm impact our coast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards; also attracted a lot of media attention.

Media appearances.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description storm response presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Informal seminar to SciBar group - good discussion afterwards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/whats-on/extreme-atlantic-wave-activity-during-2013-14-winter-and-coastal...