Coastal modelling of extreme storms and sea-level rise (CMESSLR)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Plymouth
Department Name: Sch of Biological and Marine Sciences



Currently, more than 600 million people live <10 m above mean sea level, and sea-level rise (SLR) and potential changes in storminess, due to climate change, will increasingly expose these coastal communities to increased risk of coastal flooding and erosion. To predict coastal impacts of these climate change consequences, and help design adaptation strategies to deal with these impacts, requires accurate and robust numerical models operating over a range of time scales, from real-time and operational coastal flooding models to long-term and strategic coastal evolution models. A very wide variety of commercial and bespoke numerical coastal impact models are available and 'coastal modelling' has developed into a large and important research area.

Led by PI Masselink, the Coastal Processes Research Group at the University of Plymouth is involved with two major numerical modelling efforts: (1) development of an operational coastal flooding model for the SW coast of England in collaboration with the EA flood forecasting team; and (2) modelling the response of coral reef islands to sea-level rise with involvement of UNEP. These models can be significantly improved. For example, the operational coastal flooding model is a hydrodynamic, rather than a morphodynamic model, and the coral reef island modelling is not yet advanced enough to deal with long-term island evolution. Through interaction and collaboration with a number of world-leading coastal researchers and modellers at institutions in the Netherlands (Deltares), New Zealand (University of Auckland) and the United States (USGS), the aim of this Overseas Travel Grant is to fund a 6-month sabbatical to increase PI Masselink's coastal modelling capabilities and transfer this enhanced understanding to other members of Plymouth's coastal research team (CPRG and CMAR), potentially leading to transformative impacts on the coastal research and modelling capabilities at the University of Plymouth.

Three back-to-back 2-month visits are planned from mid-January 2020 to mid-July 2020. The direct purpose of the research visits is to: (1) study up-to-date numerical coastal modelling techniques from world-leading modellers and collaborate with them and their students on a number of topics/issues; (2) strengthen existing and develop new international collaborations with coastal numerical modellers and coral reef experts; (3) carry out research in a coral reef island environment to enhance field expertise; and (4) produce a number of tangible outputs and impacts.

In addition to the direct benefits associated with the research visits for PI Masselink and his research group, the following tangible outputs of the visits are anticipated:
* A full-length paper submitted to a high-impact journal on the coral reef island morphodynamic modelling. This paper is likely to be co-authored by most of the research visit hosts.
* A short letter/commentary submitted to Nature/Science arguing the importance of morphodynamic modelling to evaluate the long-term future of coral reef islands.
* One large grant proposal submitted to NERC defined around the topic of morphodynamic response of coral reef islands to SLR involving at least one of the research visit hosts as external partner.
* One standard research grant submitted to EPSRC focussing on modelling coastal flood risk, including the morphodynamics. This proposal is also likely to involve at least one of the research visit hosts as external partner.

Planned Impact


The impact of the research conducted as part of this Overseas Travel Grant will mainly be achieved some time after the 6-month sabbatical travel, especially as a result of subsequent research grants inspired by the collaborations during the sabbatical. Therefore, in response to the specific question: 'What will be done during and after the project to increase the likelihood of the research reaching the identified beneficiaries and maximise the likelihood of the identified benefits being achieved?', the answer is that one of the outputs of this OTG is the submission of two research grants, one for each of the two themes identified (refer to JoR for more information).

Theme 1. Improved regional and operational coastal flooding model for the SW of England - Initial impact for this theme will mainly be achieved through implementing the improvements obtained from the collaboration at the visited institutions (especially to USGS) into our current OWWL model (See TR and JoR). The main pathway to this impact is through the involvement of the Flood Forecasting team in Exeter, as well as several regional coastal managers in Devon and Cornwall with whom we have very good working relationships. We currently meet several times a year with the Flood Forecasting team to evaluate our model performance, validation and improvements, and also discuss how our model can be incorporated into the EA's current suite of forecasting tools. Further and more impact is expected to result from future research projects, and one of the specific outputs of this OTG grant is to submit one standard research grant proposal to EPSRC, focussing on modelling coastal flood risk, including the morphological response and its influence on flooding.

Theme 2. Improved modelling capability response of coral reef islands to sea-level rise - . Impact from this theme will be initially achieved through publication of several papers and capitalising on the media interest that inevitably surrounds the fate of coral reef islands. We are also in the process of recruiting a PhD student, due to start October 2019, who will focus on this topic and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is involved as a major stakeholder in this project. Involvement of UNEP will provide a useful pathway to impact, e.g., through their Regional Seas Programme, Coral Reef Unit and International Coral Reef Initiative. Most importantly, however, this travel grant will help design and frame a large grant proposal to be submitted to NERC, defined around the topic of morphodynamic response of coral reef islands to SLR; this project will involve UNEP as a Project Partner and is expected to involve a very significant number of local end users and stakeholders to help produce impact. Specifically, we will liaise with local/regional/national authorities in Maldives, Kiribati and Marshall Islands, and provide scientific input into UNEP's Toolkits for Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change. The impact of this OTG will be to provide the groundwork for the subsequent large NERC grant proposal.