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iCOASST

The iCOASST Project (http://www.icoasst.net/)

Coastal erosion was widespread during the 20th Century and is expected to accelerate and become even more pervasive through the 21st Century due to sea-level rise and climate change. Erosion is a direct hazard for coastal residents and it also makes it more likely that natural and artificial defences will fail during storms, increasing the risk of coastal flooding. The risk of tidal flooding is widespread along open coasts and especially in estuaries, where extreme water levels are partly controlled by interactions between tide, surge and morphology and there are extensive flood plains. We can predict erosion and flooding during a specified extreme storm with some skill, but as we look further into the future, our ability to predict possible changes in risk diminishes. Much of this difficulty stems from the difficulty in quantitatively predicting coastal and estuarine morphological changes over time scales of decades to centuries.

Coastal erosion was widespread during the 20th Century and is expected to become even more pervasive through the 21st Century due to sea-level rise and climate change. Erosion is a direct hazard for coastal residents and it also makes it more likely that natural and artificial defences will fail during storms. This in turn increases the risk of coastal flooding, which is considered by the UK Cabinet Office as one of the biggest national threats. We can predict erosion and flooding during a specified coastal storm with some skill, but as we look further into the future, our ability to predict possible changes in risk diminishes. Much of this difficulty stems from our inability to quantitatively predict coastal and estuarine morphological changes over time scales of decades to centuries.

The NERC-funded iCOASST (integrating COAstal Sediment SysTems) project comprises a consortium of UK Universities, Research Laboratories and Engineering Consultants, partnered by the Environment Agency, who are considering how best to predict coastal morphological change at the mesoscales needed to inform shoreline management, strategy studies and other long-term coastal decision-making. This is a difficult problem, not least because the erosion and/or accretion of a coastal landform such as a beach is influenced by interaction with adjacent coastal landforms, be they cliffs, saltmarshes, tidal deltas, etc. The problem is further complicated by the role of soft and hard human interventions, which also exert a pervasive control on coastal evolution.

Accordingly, the iCOASST project took a system level perspective to understand and predict coastal change. It includes two demonstration case studies in Liverpool Bay and on the Suffolk coast, including an active and ongoing engagement with local stakeholders to explore the realism and utility of our results. The ultimate goal is multiple simulations of coastal evolution to explore sensitivity and uncertainties in future decadal-scale coastal response, including the effects of climate change and management choices. This web site reports on the final results and products of the iCOASST project. It presents the background and framework to the project in more detail. It then presents the models and mapping tools that have been developed and includes downloadable versions of the software, where appropriate. This includes example applications in Liverpool Bay (especially for Sefton to Blackpool) and Suffolk (especially for the Deben estuary and its environs). Further ongoing work linked to iCOASST funded by the Environment Agency is outlined under the tab iCOASST for end users. Development and application of these models is outgoing within the partner organisations, building on the ideas and concepts generated during the duration of the project itself. Links are provided to these on-going model development projects.