Waves during winter 2013/14 stormiest since 1948, research finds
Waves that battered Europe's Atlantic seaboard during winter 2013/2014 were the stormiest for seven decades, with major impacts for coastlines, research suggests.
Researchers analysed wave data from sites stretching from north-west Scotland down to Morocco, which showed the winter was the most "energetic" since at least 1948 for most of Europe's Atlantic coast, and especially for south-west England.
A study published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal used modelled and measured wave data from the eastern Atlantic and found extreme wave conditions occurred up to five times more frequently in 2013/2014 than on average.
Winter wave heights were up to 40% higher than normal, the research revealed.
Long-term data about beaches from the UK, at Portrush, Northern Ireland, Perranporth, Cornwall, and Slapton Sands, Devon, and sites in France was also analysed, and revealed significant impacts of the extreme storm wave conditions on the coastline.
The majority of the sites had suffered such erosion they were in their most depleted state since measurements began, at least six years ago for each of the six beaches, and based on observations by the researchers, since at least the 1990s.
The researchers said the impacts on coastlines of climate change tended to focus on rising sea levels but changes to the storminess of waves as the track storms take shifts northwards in the Atlantic could have even bigger impacts on coasts.
Dr Tim Scott, at Plymouth University, said the extremes seen two years ago were predicted to occur more often due to climate change, according to some models, and winter 2015/2016 was also set to be among the stormiest of the past 70 years.
"Whether due to more intense and/or more frequent storms, it should undoubtedly be considered in future coastal and sea defence planning along the Atlantic coast of Europe," he said.
Study lead author Gerd Masselink, of Plymouth University, added: "We have previously conducted research showing the devastating effects caused to the UK by the stormy winter of 2013/14.
"But the damage caused to coastal communities there was replicated - and in some cases exceeded - across western France.
"All but one of the sites assessed for this study reached their most depleted state at the end of the 2014 winter and it will take many years for them to fully recover."