Removing sea defenses may reduce impact of coastal flooding

December 03, 2012

A study involving a scientist from the University of Southampton, which shows that ensuring continued flood protection for low lying coastal areas may mean sacrificing cliff top communities to the sea, has won the 2012 Lloyds Science of Risk prize for Climate Change research.

Robert Nicholls, Professor of Coastal Engineering at the University of Southampton and co-author of this study, says the research - which will be further developed in a new book he is leading, to be launched in Spring 2013 - says that the benefits of protecting our coastline from erosion must be balanced against the impacts of coastal flooding.

"The trade-off between protecting cliffs and their role in naturally nourishing our protective beaches will lead to difficult decisions, especially as sea levels are rising and finance is in short supply. This requires strategic planning for the future."

Professor Nicholls was part of a research team from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research which, by focussing on a 72km stretch of shoreline along the East Anglian coast, detailed the interconnection between the two risks of erosion and flooding and show that in some cases, allowing natural erosion could reduce the impact of flooding associated with rising sea levels.

Coastal defences put in place over the last century or so have re-shaped the UK coastline, artificially protecting some areas, but at the expense of beaches in adjacent areas.

This man-made situation increases the risk of flooding in low lying coastal settlements where beaches act as a natural flood defence. Beach levels can be artificially recharged, but maintaining this indefinitely along large stretches of coastline is costly and likely to be unsustainable.

Richard Dawson, Professor of Earth Systems Engineering at Newcastle University and lead author of this study, adds: "Coastal areas typify the environmental challenge our society faces - their beauty and economic opportunities attracts settlement and they include some of our most important ecosystems and most productive farmland. Yet this exposes us to hazards such as erosion and flooding which will be exacerbated by sea-level rise.

"Clearly we can't, and wouldn't want to, remove all our sea defences, but there are difficult trade-offs to be made in prioritising coastal management measures.

"Our research provides a common platform to get all parties round the table - local residents, policy-makers, insurers, scientists and farmers to name but a few - to understand each other's perspectives, discuss potential compensatory arrangements, and collectively decide the best way forward."
-end-


University of Southampton

Related Flooding Articles from Brightsurf:

Coastal flooding will disproportionately impact 31 million people globally
Indiana University researchers analyzed these geographic regions, which include cities like New Orleans, Bangkok, and Shanghai, using a new global dataset to determine how many people live on river deltas, how many are vulnerable to a 100-year storm surge event, and the ability of the deltas to naturally mitigate impacts of climate change.

New woodlands can help reduce flooding risk within 15 years
New research by the University of Plymouth suggests the planting of more trees could have a significant and positive effect in preventing flash flooding.

Land use change leads to increased flooding in Indonesia
While high greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss are often associated with rapid land-use change in Indonesia, impacts on local water cycles have been largely overlooked.

Climate change: Coastal flooding could threaten up to 20% of global GDP
Coastal flooding events could threaten assets worth up to 20% of the global GDP by 2100, a study in Scientific Reports suggests.

River plants counter both flooding and drought to protect biodiversity
'Water plants are a nuisance in streams, blocking the flow.

Scientists predict dramatic increase in flooding, drought in California
California may see a 54 percent increase in rainfall variability by the end of this century, according to research from a UC Davis atmospheric scientist.

Multiple flooding sources threaten Honolulu's infrastructure
In a study published in Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, found in the next few decades, sea level rise will likely cause large and increasing percentages of land area to be impacted simultaneously by the three flood mechanisms.

Climate change: Extreme coastal flooding events in the US expected to rise
Extreme flooding events in some US coastal areas could double every five years if sea levels continue to rise as expected, a study published in Scientific Reports suggests.

Study find delta helps to decrease the impact of river flooding
Most coastal cities and ports face a double threat from storm surge and river flooding.

Texas A&M researchers develop flooding prediction tool
By incorporating the architecture of city drainage systems and readings from flood gauges into a comprehensive statistical framework, researchers at Texas A&M University can now accurately predict the evolution of floods in extreme situations like hurricanes.

Read More: Flooding News and Flooding Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.