Storm surge and coastal flooding
05 December 2013
The Environment Agency and Met Office are warning that gale-force winds, large waves and a tidal surge caused by low pressure will combine with high tides from today (Thursday) until Saturday morning, bringing a risk of significant coastal flooding.
The UK Tide Gauge Network is part of the UK Coastal Monitoring and Forecasting (UKCMF) Service. UKCMF is a partnership between public bodies, led by the Environment Agency (EA), providing a comprehensive coastal flood forecasting service for the UK. UKCMF ensures that those at risk of coastal flooding can be warned in good time, with the aim of saving lives and reducing the impact of flooding on homes, businesses, infrastructure and communities.
On 31 January – 01 February 1953, a combination of a high spring tide and a severe storm over the North Sea caused a storm tide; the water level reached over 5.6 metres above mean sea level in some locations. The waves overwhelmed the existing sea defences and caused extensive flooding, killing 326 people in the UK and more in low-lying areas of the Netherlands and Belgium. UKCMF's predecessor, the Storm Tide Warning Service, was set up in the aftermath of these events.
The UKCMF Service Definition states:
"There are over 2.1 million properties at risk from river and coastal flooding across England and Wales (figures from Northern Ireland and Scotland unavailable) with 1.3 million of those located in coastal areas. The frequency of severe and extreme events is predicted to increase in the future due to the onset of global climate change. This will impact in particular those people living and working along the coast. The number of people affected and the value of property often makes coastal flooding more devastating and more costly than other sources of flooding."
Tide gauge data, managed and distributed by BODC, has been used by government bodies, commercial companies and academics to study various aspects of flooding. Among other applications, the data have been used by contractors working on a Coastal Protection Scheme, in PhDs looking at tidal flooding, as input into hydraulic models for flood studies and to assess potential flood risks.