Istituto di Scienze Marine     
Pirazzoli P. A., Costa S., Dornbusch U., Tomasin A. Recent evolution of surge-related events and assessment of coastal flooding risk on the eastern coasts of the English Channel. In: Ocean Dynamics, vol. 56 (40334) pp. 498 - 512. Springer Heidelberg, 2006.
This paper is based on statistical analysis of hourly tide measurements for some 285 equivalent full years from the stations of Weymouth, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Newhaven, Dover and Sheerness in the UK, and of Cherbourg, Le Havre, Dieppe, Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk in France. For each tidal value, surge heights have been determined and correlated with hourly or three-hourly wind and air pressure data from nearby meteorological stations. Major surges in the area are generally produced by storms associated with wind from north-west or south-west that tend to push oceanic water into the Channel. Recent medium-term climate evolution does not seem to increase the flooding risk at French stations, where surge-related winds tend to decrease in frequency and speed (Cherbourg, Dieppe and Boulogne) or show little change (Le Havre). However, the long-term risk of flooding will increase through the loss in land elevation due to a continuation of the local relative sea-level rise, especially if this effect will be enhanced by an acceleration in the global sea-level rise predicted by climatic models. The northern side of the Channel (Weymouth, Bournemouth and Portsmouth) is mainly exposed to southerly winds that show variable trends. It is also apparently affected by strong subsidence trends during the last two decades. If lasting, such trends can only increase long-term flooding risk. The flooding risk has not increased near the eastern end of the Channel. The duration of significant cyclonic events tends to decrease near Cherbourg but tends to increase near Weymouth, with no conclusive trends in other stations (Portsmouth, Calais and Dunkirk), where extreme surges may occur also in relatively high-air-pressure situations. In conclusion, medium-term coastal flooding risk seems to increase especially at Weymouth, Bournemouth and Portsmouth, and also, but less so, at Le Havre and Sheerness. In addition, few extreme surges occurred during the last decades at the time of spring high tide, which would seem to be a fortunate coincidence or, in some cases, an effect of tide-surge interaction. The risk of occurrence of less favourable random events in the near future is therefore of concern, and flood potential would greatly increase if the global sea-level rise expected in the near future is also considered.
DOI: 10.1007/s10236-005-0040-3
Subject tide
coastal flooding risk
climate change
English Channel

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