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Winter Storms 2013/14

Winter Storms 2013/14

During the winter of 2013-14 the southern coast of England was exposed to an unusual and prolonged combination of severe storms.  Many sites in central southern England experienced between 5 and 7 storms during the winter period, October 2013 to February 2014.  A "storm" is defined here as having wave heights above that which would be expected, on average, once a year, i.e. the 1 year return period.  Not only were there many more storms during this winter, but they were also larger storms than occurred in previous years.  For example, a number of storms exceeded 1 in 10 years, or 1 in 50 years return periods.  The sequence of storms this winter has had a considerable impact on many beaches.  The alarming erosion rates of the past winter reflect a combination of the intensity and the clustering of the storms.  During a typical winter, storms are more widely spaced in time, allowing time for natural recovery of the beaches, particularly the upper beach.  However, during the winter 2013/14 a string of severe storms occurred in just a few weeks, week beginning 28 October 2013 was the St Jude's storm, 28 October 2013, week beginning 23 December 2013 encompassed the Christmas Eve storms, week beginning 3 February 2014 spanned the extensive stormy period from 5-8 February, week beginning 10 February 2014 included the St Valentine's storm.

Sometimes the beach had less than a week's recovery period before the next storm, and hence each storm was working on a progressively weakened beach.

  • 50% of all the storms measured during the last 10 years occurred in 2013/14
  • Erosion rates greater than 25 times the annual average were observed at numerous sites
  • The long term change at Hurst Spit between November 2003 and March 2013 is 16 000 m3.  The losses between March 2013 to 17 February 2014 have been recorded at 47 000 m3
  • Hurst Spit needed 5 times normal maintenance operations to be undertaken during the winter
  • Losses were highly variable due to differences in beach orientation and the number/size of storms
  • Beach losses were lower at some sites where supply of beach material is limited, with the result that at some sites the beach was completely stripped from the bedrock
  • Some sites which had generally been accreting of 10 years experienced large scale erosion
  • At some sites, the sediment loss is likely to be temporary, and natural processes are expected to partially rebuild the beaches

In general, the southeast coast is heavily managed, with beach management schemes covering significant stretches of coastline.  The implication of the winter storms is that beach management schemes which usually require regular beach recharge or recycling such as Hurst Spit have needed significantly more beach operations than usual, in order to maintain the beach at an adequate standard of service.

A Gallery of images from the St Valentine's storm 2014 can be viewed using the following links:

adobe icon Hurst [2Mb]

adobe icon Milford [1Mb]

adobe icon Hordle Cliff [1Mb]

adobe icon Hordle Beach Huts Plan [165kb]

adobe icon Storm Report for Milford on Sea [237kb]

The above report, "Review of south coast beach response to wave conditions in the winter of 2013-14" can be viewed in its entirety using this link: www.channelcoast.org/reports

Updated: 21 Nov 2014
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