Coastal Processes Research Group - Loe Bar near Porthleven, Cornwall

Scientists at the University of Plymouth have set up a computer model to provide detailed forecasts of wave and water levels that will aid in the management of coastal flooding and other coastal hazards.

The Operational Wave and Water Level (OWWL) model uses UK Met Office mode output to predict wave and water level conditions at a 1km resolution, thus providing accurate predictions within each embayment on the complex stretch of coastline. Such detailed information was previously not possible using existing forecasts.

The system has been developed with the Dutch Delft3D hydrodynamic model at its core. It uses the Channel Coastal Observatory’s network of nearshore wave buoys and tide gauges to provide a real-time comparison between the conditions predicted by the model and those measured by the instruments.

From the OWWL forecast website, people will be able to obtain a detailed forecast of waves and water levels for the next three days for a large number of locations along the coastline of the South West and South Wales.

In the near future, wave overtopping and coastal flooding will also be predicted by the model, and coastal managers will be able to sign up to email alerts to warn them when coastal flooding is predicted by the model in their area.

The aim is that the information will ultimately be used by local authorities, emergency services and the Environment Agency to proactively prepare for coastal flooding during storm conditions.

The OWWL model has been developed by the University’s Coastal Processes Research Group, in conjunction with the Channel Coastal Observatory, as part of the wider South West Partnership for Environment and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP). Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the SWEEP project aims to deliver economic and community benefits to the South West, while protecting and enhancing the area’s natural resources.

Professor Gerd Masselink, Director of the Coastal Processes Research Group, said:

“This is another great example of how we can use technology to improve our understanding of the oceans, and the impact they can have on our coastlines. The existing wave buoy network provides good coverage of the real-time wave and water conditions, but the model allows us to provide accurate forecasts for more locations where measurements are not provided. We are now looking at ways to develop the technology further, taking beach data into account to predict the potential for wave overtopping and coastal flooding.”

The Operational Wave and Water Level (OWWL) model

JUNE 2019 UPDATE - A new video explaining the OWWL model is now available to view on YouTube.

Coastal Processes Research Group

The Coastal Processes Research Group is an internationally recognised group of researchers, specialising in field studies of coastal processes and seeking to understand and predict the behaviour of coastal and estuarine systems. Research topics include:

  • beach morphodynamics and nearshore sediment transport
  • coastal erosion and storm impacts
  • video monitoring of coastal systems
  • coastal process modelling
  • estuarine processes and evolution.

The group operates a research-informed consultancy Coastal Marine Applied Research.

Coastal Processes Research Group Perranporth beach

South West Partnership for Environment and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP)

Applying research to deliver environmental, economic and social benefits to the South West
SWEEP logo

The activity highlighted here is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more.

NERC is part of UK Research & Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.