Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 56, Issue 5–6, pp 498–512 | Cite as

Recent evolution of surge-related events and assessment of coastal flooding risk on the eastern coasts of the English Channel

  • Paolo Antonio PirazzoliEmail author
  • Stéphane Costa
  • Uwe Dornbusch
  • Alberto Tomasin
Original paper


This paper is based on statistical analysis of hourly tide measurements for some 285 equivalent full years from the stations of Weymouth, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Newhaven, Dover and Sheerness in the UK, and of Cherbourg, Le Havre, Dieppe, Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk in France. For each tidal value, surge heights have been determined and correlated with hourly or three-hourly wind and air pressure data from nearby meteorological stations. Major surges in the area are generally produced by storms associated with wind from north-west or south-west that tend to push oceanic water into the Channel. Recent medium-term climate evolution does not seem to increase the flooding risk at French stations, where surge-related winds tend to decrease in frequency and speed (Cherbourg, Dieppe and Boulogne) or show little change (Le Havre). However, the long-term risk of flooding will increase through the loss in land elevation due to a continuation of the local relative sea-level rise, especially if this effect will be enhanced by an acceleration in the global sea-level rise predicted by climatic models. The northern side of the Channel (Weymouth, Bournemouth and Portsmouth) is mainly exposed to southerly winds that show variable trends. It is also apparently affected by strong subsidence trends during the last two decades. If lasting, such trends can only increase long-term flooding risk. The flooding risk has not increased near the eastern end of the Channel. The duration of significant cyclonic events tends to decrease near Cherbourg but tends to increase near Weymouth, with no conclusive trends in other stations (Portsmouth, Calais and Dunkirk), where extreme surges may occur also in relatively high-air-pressure situations. In conclusion, medium-term coastal flooding risk seems to increase especially at Weymouth, Bournemouth and Portsmouth, and also, but less so, at Le Havre and Sheerness. In addition, few extreme surges occurred during the last decades at the time of spring high tide, which would seem to be a fortunate coincidence or, in some cases, an effect of tide–surge interaction. The risk of occurrence of less favourable random events in the near future is therefore of concern, and flood potential would greatly increase if the global sea-level rise expected in the near future is also considered.


Tide Surge Meteorology Coastal flooding risk Climate change English channel 



This work was partly carried out during the Beaches At Risk (BAR) project funded by the European Union Regional Development Fund under the INTERREG III programme. The statistical analysis for the French coasts was partly funded by the DISCOBOLE project (French Governement: Ministère de l’Ecologie et du Développement Durable and Ministère de la Recherche). We thank C. Corte ( for having collected from the Internet and archived the synoptic charts of Fig. 3 and Andreas Fink from IGM Cologne for his permission to include them in this publication. The work of editing by Ms. Jane Frankenfield was particularly appreciated. Useful comments and suggestions by Philip Woodworth and two unnamed referees contributed to improve a previous version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paolo Antonio Pirazzoli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stéphane Costa
    • 2
  • Uwe Dornbusch
    • 3
  • Alberto Tomasin
    • 4
  1. 1.CNRS-UMR 8591Laboratoire de Géographie PhysiqueMeudonFrance
  2. 2.Geophen UMR-CNRS LETG 6554Université de Caen Basse-NormandieCaen CedexFrance
  3. 3.University of SussexBrightonUK
  4. 4.CNR-ISMAR & Università di VeneziaVeniceItaly

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