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Marine Science

MEASURING HOW EXTREME STORMS AND WAVE HEIGHTS IMPACT THE COAST

MEASURING HOW EXTREME STORMS

Measuring how extreme storms and wave heights impact the coast. NUI Galway and Marine Institute partnership deploys waverider to measure the impact of storms and rising sea levels in Brandon Bay.

A research project led by coastal and ocean scientists in NUI Galway and the Marine Institute involves the deployment of a combination of smart buoys and time-lapse imaging to measure storm impacts and support the development of coastal flood and erosion defences.

The project, Brandon Bay on the Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry, involves:

• A new waverider buoy provided by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland to measure wave height, wave direction, wave period, surface currents, and water temperature as well as storm impact
• Data being made available to view or download on the Marine Institute supported website Digital Ocean, a web portal to view data collected in and around Ireland’s maritime zone.
• The installation of a shoreline monitoring system along Brandon Bay at three sites, which will capture images of the beach every 10 minutes during daylight hours over the next 12 months, to identify the time periods when wave run-up is high enough to reach the dune toe and potentially cause coastal erosion. This research is funded by Geological Survey Ireland.

Dr Eugene Farrell, Discipline of Geography and Ryan Institute’s Centre for Ocean Research and Exploration (COREx), NUI Galway, said:

“We want to improve existing coastal change models by developing better insights into why does change occur and how much change will occur if we dial up climate projections for rising sea levels and storminess. To answer these questions we require process-response coastal models and these are only possible if nearshore observations from wave buoys such as the one in Brandon Bay are deployed over long time periods to capture all the seasons.

“We already know that changes along the coast from elevated storm surge and wave run-up result in changes in seabed and beach elevations. The data captured by the waverider will play an integral part in dismantling the important connections between different storm types such as size, direction, duration, clustering and coastal response that allows us to share real time ocean observations that can be used to address coastal erosion and coastal flood protection.”

Alan Berry, Manager of Marine Research Infrastructures at the Marine Institute said:

“The wave buoy at Brandon Bay will enable researchers to observe and understand how our ocean is changing and determine how to respond to current and future patterns of change. Open access to this data on Ireland’s Digital Ocean website is valuable to climate researchers in Ireland and across Europe.”

The Brandon Bay long-term waverider project is co-led by Dr Eugene Farrell, Discipline of Geography, Sheena Parsons, Earth and Ocean Sciences, and Dr Stephen Nash and Andi Egon, Civil Engineering in NUI Galway, and Alan Berry and Conall O’Malley from the Marine Institute with support from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

In September 2020, a Coastal Change Technical Working Group was established within the Irish government and tasked with overseeing the development of a scoping report on a national coastal change management strategy. They have envisaged that the scoping report will address issues related to ‘baseline and other data capture and research requirements to inform developing, implementing and monitoring a national coastal management strategy, to include potential damages assessment’.

Dr Eugene Farrell adds:

“We feel it is our responsibility as coastal scientists to provide the requisite baseline information and recommendations to guide future research along the coast in order to fill knowledge gaps. This is an integral part of the Brandon Bay Waverider project and can be used as a demonstration project so that future investment in coastal infrastructure can be identified.

“Cumulatively, our approach requires a large team of experts to work together. The Maharees in Brandon Bay is already becoming a hub for coastal science thanks to the active community group in the area, the Maharees Conservation Association. There is an urgent need to increase our understanding of coastal change so that that we can better protect our coastal communities and design conservation plans for coastal ecosystems whose dynamic boundaries move in response to changing climate conditions.”

The Brandon Bay Waverider project is supported by the Marine Institute, NUI Galway and MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine research and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

Wave data results from the Brandon Bay Waverider project can be viewed at: www.digitalocean.ie.

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