Studies of coastal vulnerability due to climate change tend to focus on the relatively linear consequences of sea-level rise, rather than the more complex coastal responses resulting from changes to the extreme wave climate.

In this presentation, Prof. Masselink will discuss the 2013/14 winter wave conditions that severely impacted the Atlantic coast of Europe and relate these to historical wave conditions. He will demonstrate that the 2013/14 winter was the most energetic winter along most of the Atlantic coast of Europe since at least 1949, with conditions most extreme for southwest England and France. 

Along the most exposed sites in the SW of England, unprecedented beach and dune erosion occurred due to offshore sediment transport with sediment losses of up to 200 m3 per unit meter beach width. More sheltered sites experienced less erosion or even accretion. Along several beaches along the south coast of SW England, beaches rotated due to alongshore sediment transport, and experienced erosion on one end of the beach and accretion at the other end. 

The occurrence of the extreme 2013/14 winter is in line with historical trends in wave conditions and is also predicted to increasingly occur due to climate change. Conditions such as encountered during the 2013/14 winter have the potential to dramatically change the equilibrium state of beaches in the southest of England, and, indeed, along the Atlantic coast of Europe.

Professor Masselink is Associate Head of School for Marine Science and Engineering at Plymouth University, with a particular focus on Coastal Geomorphology.

Plymouth Scibar is brought to you by the Plymouth Branch of the British Science Association.

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