Photo: Strong winds hit West Bay, Dorset (taken 24/12/2013) Credit: Lynne Ross (Flickr)
New research has found that the winter of 2013/2014 was ‘the stormiest UK winter on record’. It was the most energetic winter along the Atlantic coast of Europe in 65 years with widespread wind damage, flooding and coastal erosion.
The latest research, available in Geophysical Research Letters, compared the wave conditions for December, January and February of 2013/2014 with the data available from 1948-2015; a total of 67 winters. With the exception of south Portugal and north Ireland, the 2013/2014 winter has the highest winter-averaged significant wave height. The largest winter-averaged wave conditions were experienced off the coast of Brittany, southwest England, and south Ireland, with average wave heights of 5 to 6m. Not only was the UK affected, but the coastal impacts were also extensive along Atlantic European beaches. In some cases, beaches were completely stripped of sand, with permanent coastal change along rocky coasts. For those sites that experienced extensive dune erosion it is expected full recovery by natural processes will take at least 10 years.
Research carried out by Huw Davies last year found that an unusually strong jet stream, combined with a very intense polar vortex was the reason for the succession of deep low pressure systems that winter.
Most computer models that are researching the effects of climate change are predicting an increase in winter storm intensity out to the year 2100. As a result of increased storminess, whether due to more intense storms and/or more frequent storms, the study reccomends these findings should be taken into considertation during future coastal planning along the Atlantic coast of Europe.