Coastal Impacts Project
Extreme waves impacting on Chesil Beach in Dorset, UK, on February 05, 2014. Image credit: Richard Broome

NERC Reference: NE/M004996/1

Duration: 12 months

This urgency project aims to assess the impacts of the sequence of extreme storms during the 2013/2014 winter period on both the physical and human coastal environment in the southwest of England. The research will evaluate the vulnerability of this region to such extreme Atlantic storms, which are predicted to become more frequent in the future due to climate change. The project team will be recording the direct storm impacts through the collection of a baseline data set, and using this to assess the post-storm recovery. The study will use field data and numerical modelling of the wave conditions to assess the vulnerability and resilience of the coastal environment to such extreme wave events.

The research project consists of five work packages:

  • Quantifying coastal morphological change: coastal monitoring, involving the measurement of the physical changes caused by the extreme storms on a large number of sites (more than 50) in the southwest of England.

  • Impact on subtidal coastal morphology: 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.

  • Socio-economic storm impacts on storm-affected communities: capturing the immediate experiences of local communities and responsible agencies using a combination of interviews, media analysis and social network analysis at c. ten sites in the southwest of England.

  • Spatial variability in wave forcing: wave analysis and modelling to investigate the spatial variability in the storm wave field and comparing the 2013/2014 winter period with previous years.

  • Atlantic Storm Coastal Impact Map: constructing an impact map for the southwest coast of England, using Google Earth 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.

The study area includes the coastlines of the Duchy of Cornwall and the counties of Somerset, Devon and Dorset, and extends 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.

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.

Project outputs

The six key outputs of the project are:

  • Academic research - including international scientific journal papers and conference presentations.
  • Educational - material for geography journal to disseminate the research finding to A level students.
  • Online material, including project website with outputs to engage with the public. 
  • One-day stakeholder workshop to bring together the various coastal stakeholders in an interactive forum (hosted by Cornwall County Council).
  • Atlantic Storm Coastal Impact Map (Google Earth).
  • summarising research findings in an interactive way.

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