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Wave research set to bolster defences

Southwest Cornwall Southwest Cornwall Shutterstock
26 Nov
2014
Coastal  researchers are undertaking innovative analysis into the impact of waves on the UK shoreline, to draw-up a specialised approach to future sea defences

Professor Gerd Masselink, professor of coastal geomorphology at Plymouth University, and a globally-sourced team of researchers are heading out to survey rocky coastlines around the UK, investigating how rocky shorelines around the UK break up the power of waves. The aim is to highlight which areas of coastline are vulnerable and in need of specialised coastal protection.

Teams from both Plymouth and Bangor Universities in the UK, as well as the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the Deltares Research Institute in the Netherlands, are joining forces under the Waves Across Shore Platforms (WASP) project. WASP is funded by a £340,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC) and will span two years.

Having previously analysed the impact of waves on sandy and gravel beaches, the team kick-started their research into rocky shorelines at Hartland Quay in Devon, along the UK’s famous Jurassic Coast.

‘This study will enable us to predict and demonstrate how sea conditions might impact on our rocky coastlines in future decades and centuries, providing a greater understanding of the potential threats we might face,’ said Professor Masselink.

The group use lasers to scan the waves’ surfaces as they rush shoreward, logging their breaking point. Lasers are also used to compile detailed profiles of rock surfaces to assess their impact on wave behaviour. Pressure sensors fixed to the wave-cut platform measure wave height and frequency, and current meters under the water acoustically measure tide velocities.

Climate change is driving rising sea levels and more intense weather conditions, posing an increasingly greater risk to coastal settlements around the UK. A more specialised approach to sea defences is needed across the UK, due to the wide disparity of tidal forces acting over the length of the coastline.

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