Winter storms strongest to hit western Europe since 1948, study shows
The repeated storms which battered Europe's Atlantic coastline during the winter of 2013/14 were the most energetic in almost seven decades, new research has shown.
And they were part of a growing trend in stormy conditions which scientists say has the potential to dramatically change the equilibrium state of beaches along the western side of the continent, leading to permanent changes in beach gradient, coastal alignment and nearshore bar position.
In a study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, researchers compared modelled and measured data from sites across Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Portugal, Spain and Morocco, and showed the extreme weather conditions were the most energetic since at least 1948.
It showed that along exposed open-coast sites in the UK and France, there had been extensive beach and dune erosion due to offshore sediment transport with sediment losses of up to 200 m3 for every 1m strip of beach. At some of the other sites, the balance between the different alongshore sediment transport contributions was disrupted, causing changes in the coastal alignment, referred to as beach rotation.
The research was led by Plymouth University in conjunction with scientists from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, l'Université de Bordeaux, l'Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer and Ulster University.
Photo shows extreme waves impacting on Chesil Beach in Dorset, UK, were taken on Feb. 5, 2014. Credit: Richard Broome
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