Gerd, Professor of Coastal Geomorphology and Head of the Coastal Processes Research Group (CPRG), is one of the world’s leading authorities on the coastal impacts of extreme storms. From the Atlantic coast of Europe to atolls in the Pacific, his research has consistently focused on measuring and investigating the consequences of storms and use the understanding obtained to develop methods and tools to predict our coastlines now and in the future.

Protecting our coastlines from extreme storms 

CPRG comprises the largest group of coastal researchers in the UK and the only one in Europe capable of measuring extreme storm response. Its work is both timely and significant, given the unprecedented threats posed by climate change, and the potentially devastating impact that could have on coastal communities. 

Collaborating with academics in Plymouth and globally, and having co-authored more than 150 research publications, Gerd has shown that our coastlines are vulnerable to extreme storms and that storm impacts, specifically erosion and flooding, are likely to increase in the future. He is at the forefront of efforts to help communities address the potential impacts of those storms, developing new innovations and technological solutions that will change the way they are both predicted and managed.

Innovative coastal research 

CPRG was the first research group to provide field measurements of extreme storm impacts on sandy and gravel beaches, and coastal cliffs with waves exceeding eight metres, and was also at the forefront in Europe to capitalise on the use of video imagery for coastal management. Its research into rip hazards, undertaken with the RNLI, has gone a long way to underpinning its international reputation in beach hazard research, while the establishment of the Coastal and Marine Applied Research (CMAR) consultancy enables it to advise regional, national and international clients on coastal issues, safety and management. 

Coastal erosion and flooding, and consequent damage to infrastructure, disruption of services and modifications to the coastal landscape will become more common over the next century due to climate change. Rising sea levels will increase the probability of extreme coastal water levels and this could be exacerbated by potentially larger and more frequent extreme waves due to changes to the wave climate. 

Over the last decade, we have demonstrated that the impact of extreme storms on our coastlines is already significant but expected to become even more so in the future.

Professor Gerd Masselink