Scientists Develop Tool which can Predict Coastal Erosion and Recovery in Extreme Storms

A boon for coastal managers.

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Scientists at the University of Plymouth along with the University of New South Wales have developed a computer model that can predict damage caused to beaches by extreme storms. When exposing to the energetic coastlines, it can predict the rate at which they recover.

The tool use past wave observations and beach assessments to predict the coastal erosion sediments over the coming year. In other words, it acts as a boon for coastal managers. It gives them the potential to make decisions that could protect communities.

With the help of a traffic light system, coastal scientists can feature the level of activity required to ensure specific shorelines.

Dr Mark Davidson, Reader in Coastal Processes at the University of Plymouth said, “In the past, coastal managers have always tended to be responsive. They have been unable to fully predict how their areas might respond over periods of up to a year, and to assess any pre-emptive measures they could take. This research goes some way to changing that, enabling us to warn people in advance about how beaches will respond and helping officials take the steps they need to protect themselves and their communities.”

Scientists tested the tool on two different beaches, Perranporth in North Cornwall and Narrabeen, just north of Sydney. Both beaches experience very differing wave and climatic conditions.

In both cases, the tool was able to predict both coastal erosion occurred due to storm and subsequent recovery with potential shoreline positions. It gives a clear indication of the intensity of storms in terms of their impact on the coast.

Dr. Davidson said, “Beaches play a crucial role in the lives of coastal communities, acting as a defense but also in creating leisure opportunities. Gaining a greater knowledge of how they might be affected by weather is therefore essential, both in the short and long term. We have never been able to forecast over a longer period of time before, and are now looking at ways to expand this tool so that its accuracy and benefits can be increased.”