Extreme storms could help protect beaches from sea level rise by bringing in new sand from deeper waters, a new study claims.
Images in the wake of violent coastal storms often focus purely on the damage caused to beaches, dunes, property, and surrounding infrastructure.
However, these extreme weather events could help offset erosion to beaches caused by rising sea levels, by pulling up vast quantities of sediment from the ocean floor and depositing it along retreating shorelines.
Climate change is projected to cause a global sea level rise of between 25in (63cm) and 40in (101cm) by 2100, based on a scenario where future greenhouse gas emissions are at the high end of current modelling.
Global warming is also expected to increase wave heights during extreme weather events along almost three-fifths of the world’s coastlines by the end of the century.
But the researchers said the findings could potentially change long-term predictions about the future of our coastlines.
They found that quantities of sand deposited naturally along the coastlines in the study match the amounts required by engineers for artificial ‘beach nourishment’ projects used to combat erosion.
Researchers studied Narrabeen beach in Sydney (pictured) in the wake of a 2016 storm, which ripped a swimming pool away from a property overlooking the coastline
Researchers used a combination of monthly beach topographic surveys and quasi-annual bathymetric surveys to study the impact of extreme weather events on beaches
More tropical cyclones could hit cities because of rising temperatures
Research by Yale University-led experts suggests that global warming will reduce the temperature differential between the equator and the poles.
This, they warn, could weaken the jet stream at mid-latitudes, allowing cyclones to form — by 2100 — over a wider range than they have in the last 3 million years.
The ability for more tropical cyclones to form at mid-latitudes, where most of the world’s population lives, will place millions more within their devastating reach.
The research was led by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, in collaboration with academics from the University of Plymouth, and the Autonomous University of Baja California.
‘We know that extreme storms cause major coastal erosion and damage to beachfront properties’, said Dr Mitchell Harley, Senior Lecturer from the University of New South Wales’ Water Research Laboratory, who led the study.
‘For the first time we looked not just above water, where the impacts of extreme storms are easy to see, but also deep down below the water as well.
‘What we found was that hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of sand was entering these beach systems during these events – that’s similar to the scale of what engineers use to nourish a…