2013/14 winter season in Europe most energetic since 1948

2013/14 winter season in Europe most energetic since 1948

A new study, encompassing the modelled and measured data sets from Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Portugal, Spain and Morocco, show that the extreme weather conditions which occurred during the 2013/14 winter season, were the most energetic since at least 1948. The continuing trend of such conditions could lead to permanent changes in beach gradient, coastal alignment and nearshore bar positions across the affected areas.

Newest research results show extensive beach and dune erosion induced by the offshore sediment transport along the open coastal parts of the UK and France. Sediment losses ranged up to 200 cubic meters (7 000 cubic feet) for every 1-meter (3-foot) strip of beach.

Numerous other study sites showed the disrupted balance between different alongshore sediment transport contribution. This has caused the so-called beach rotation changes in coastal alignment.

“We have previously conducted research showing the devastating effects caused to the UK by the stormy winter of 2013/14. But the damage caused to coastal communities there was replicated – and in some cases exceeded – across western France. All but one of the sites assessed for this study reached their most depleted state at the end of the 2014 winter, and it will take many years for them to fully recover," said Gerd Masselink, professor of coastal geomorphology at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom and the study’s lead author. 

The storms that battered Europe's Atlantic coastline during the winter of 2013/14 were the most energetic in almost seven decades, according to new research. Some of these storms featured extreme waves, such as this one crashing on Chesil Beach in Dorset, southern England, on February 5, 2014. Image credit: Richard Broome

Experts have utilised modelled and measured wave data from the eastern Atlantic and analyzed long-term beach profile data from parts of Ireland, UK and France for the purpose of the study.

According to the results, the extreme wave conditions occurred about five times more frequently during the winter season of 2013/14. At the same time, the recorded winter wave heights were up to 40% higher than usual.

The trend of such extreme weather conditions holds the potential to influence strongly the equilibrium state of beaches along the western portion of the European continent. This could lead to permanent changes in beach gradient, coastal alignment and nearshore bar position.

Coastal beauty spots have suffered years worth of erosion in just a few weeks due to the winter storms that have repeatedly battered the UK during winter 2013/14. Video credit: Current News

“The extreme winter of 2013/14 is in line with historical trends in wave conditions and is also predicted to increasingly occur due to climate change according to some of the climate models, with the winter of 2015/16 also set to be among the stormiest of the past 70 years. Whether due to more intense and/or more frequent storms, it should undoubtedly be considered in future coastal and sea defense planning along the Atlantic coast of Europe,” said Tim Scott, a lecturer in ocean exploration at Plymouth University and a co-author of the study.

Reference:

  • "Extreme wave activity during 2013/2014 winter and morphological impacts along the Atlantic coast of Europe" - Gerd Masselink, Bruno Castelle, Tim Scott, Guillaume Dodet, Serge Suanez, Derek Jackson, and France Floc’h - Geophysical Research Letters (2016) - doi:10.1002/2015GL067492

Featured image: The storms that battered Europe's Atlantic coastline during the winter of 2013/14 were the most energetic in almost seven decades, according to new research. Some of these storms featured extreme waves, such as this one crashing on Chesil Beach in Dorset, southern England, on February 5, 2014. Image credit: Richard Broome

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