Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 57, Issue 6, pp 501–510 | Cite as

Flood threat anomaly for the low coastal areas of the English Channel based on analysis of recent characteristic flood occurrences

  • Paolo Antonio PirazzoliEmail author
  • Stéphane Costa
  • Uwe Dornbusch


In the English Channel, extreme surge heights did not occur at the time of extreme high tides during the last decades and maximum recorded heights usually do not exceed the maximum astronomical tide by more than a few decimetres. To understand whether this lack of coincidence may be due to specific phenomena or only to chance, we have studied hourly tide records lasting a few decades from nine English and nine French stations as well as air pressure and wind data from nearby meteorological observatories. Among the case studies of moderate flooding at several coastal stations occurring during spring tide, we have selected those of 24–25/10/1980 and of 30/01/1983 to 02/02/1983 as representative of a normal situation without any special chance. The third case study 26–28/02/1990 was potentially more dangerous because of the storm intensity and duration; however, by chance, surge peaks occurred near the low tide. Finally, the propagation of the surge peak of 15–16/10/1987, which reached the maximum height recorded during all the instrumental period at several stations, has been followed all along the English Channel, using the hourly records of 12 tide-gauge stations and of 16 meteorological stations. The surge peak of this great storm, probably the strongest in the last two centuries, occurred everywhere at high tide and spread with the same velocity of the tidal wave. Fortunately, no major flooding occurred because it was the day after a neap tide. In conclusion, some good fortune has saved the low coastal areas of the English Channel from major floods during the last decades. However, the occurrence of the peak of a strong storm surge arriving near the western entrance of the Channel at the time of a great astronomical high tide is a possible event that could be devastating along both sides of the Channel coasts.


Sea level Storm surge Tide Coastal flooding 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 and the DISCOBOLE project (French Government: Ministère de l’Ecologie et du Développement Durable and Ministère de la Recherche). Thanks are due to the British Atmospheric Data Centre for providing access to the Met Office Land Surface Observation Stations Data. The tide data were supplied by Service Hydrographique et Océanographique de la Marine through the SONEL database and by the British Oceanographic Data Centre as part of the function of the National Tidal and Sea Level facility, hosted by the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory and funded by the Environment Agency and the Natural Environment Research Council. Useful comments by two anonymous referees contributed to improve a previous version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paolo Antonio Pirazzoli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stéphane Costa
    • 2
  • Uwe Dornbusch
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Géographie PhysiqueCNRSMeudonFrance
  2. 2.GéophenUniversité de Caen Basse-NormandieCaen CedexFrance
  3. 3.University of SussexBrightonUK

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