Coastal Processes Research Group (CPRG)

Researchers from the Coastal Processes Research Group and their consultancy arm Coastal Marine Applied Research have been awarded £176k for their contribution to the Coastal REsistance: Alerts and Monitoring Technologies (CreamT) project. CreamT is a 2-year project led by Liverpool NOC and aims to demonstrate a new coastal hazard monitoring and alert system that has the potential to be integrated into National Monitoring Networks across the UK. The grant is funded through NERC’s Constructing a Digital Environment programme.


Project context

Improving flood resilience through flood preparedness is a national priority, particularly in light of climate change and rising sea levels. Worldwide 150 million people could be affected by sea level rise in the next 30 years. However, the present dearth of in-situ near real-time data at the point-of-impact (i.e. the land-sea interface and the overtopped area immediately inland of it) seriously limits the: 

(1) validation of flood forecast tools; 

(2) calibration of flood hazard alert thresholds; and 

(3) our ability to nowcast hazards. 

The public's understanding of flood risk is generally poor, thus uptake of existing warning services is low.

This project aims to address all these issues and will combine skills in environmental monitoring, numerical modelling, data streaming and artistic communication to deliver the following objectives:

1. Develop an automated smart flood and coastal erosion hazard monitoring system to measure hazards at the point-of-impact issue alerts based on real-time in situ data and deliver site-specific field data to improve existing flood forecasting services.

2. Develop a new web service to collate, format, harmonise and expose existing disparate national hazard data (coastal, river and meteorological), along with the new data from our hazard monitoring system, in to a single easily accessible source.

3. Expand citizen-led coastal erosion monitoring initiatives and increase the public’s awareness of coastal hazards and existing flood forecasting services.

CreamT logo
CreamT Seawall CPRG


Using Penzance and Dawlish we will demonstrate a new monitoring system able to issue vital real-time hazard alerts and flood data to national government agencies. Working with the Environment Agency (EA), Met. Office, Channel Coastal Observatory (CCO), Cornwall Council, Teignbridge District Council, Capgenimi and National Trust, we will build on previous research using digital communication, data networking and citizen science. 

This project will combine the expertise from the Liverpool NOC WireWall instrumentation to collect field data on storm-induced overtopping and beach lowering over a 3-month winter period at Penzance and Dawlish. The real-time field data collection results will be integrated into the operational SWEEP-OWWL overtopping model.

This project will incorporate our new hazard data into the SWEEP service through a new web-accessible, open source data staging web service, thus linking models and new monitoring to validate current hazard services.

The new web service will expose existing, coastal, river and weather data, while the new system will include:

1. A novel wave overtopping sensor to measure water levels and waves just before they impact a sea wall in addition to the depth, volume and speed of the water as it overtops onto public access areas behind the sea defence;

2. Cameras to validate wave conditions and confirm the occurrence of overtopping events;

3. Laser measurements of the pre- and post-storm beach levels during an event; and

4. An international citizen science programme, CoastSnap, that monitors beach conditions over time through photographs.

Overtopping Penzance
Seawall CPRG

The system will use the UK’s tide gauge network to trigger the measurement of potentially hazardous conditions when water levels reach the sea walls and return real-time alerts when flooding is detected. This information will allow validation of the SWEEP-OWWL overtopping mode alert service. 

With the EA’s flood forecast team we will use this information to refine their local hazard thresholds and to understand the uncertainty in local conditions at the sea wall sites due to their large (many km’s) distance from national monitoring stations. The measured, visual and audio data will be used in an interactive coastal walk, and made accessible through an Augmented Reality (AR) phone application, available for IOS and Android devices.

The AR walk will guide people to CoastSnap photo posts, encouraging participation in the RCMP beach monitoring. Promotion of the walk through the Tourist Information Centres and Twitter will raise community awareness of changing coastal hazards and shoreline management initiatives such as #floodaware and #CoastSafe. 

The team of oceanographers, engineers, data managers, a digital artist, a poet and a software developer will apply their expertise in different disciplines to significantly improve the accuracy and effectiveness of existing coastal hazard warning services. They will engage the public through an easily accessible phone app and participation in citizen science monitoring. Information will be archived at BODC and made available under the NERC Data Policy. 

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