Storm Callum and sea level rise in Clew Bay 12102018

Storm Callum reached its peak in Clew Bay on friday morning (12102018). Some flooding occurred at Westport Quay caused by the storm surge, spring tide and south west wind (11 metres per second). If the wind had come from the west the flooding at Westport Quay would have been greater. Wind gusts of 110km/hour were forecast. The strongest gust recorded in Ireland was in Mayo when a gust of 125km per hour was recorded in Belmullet. Storm damage and coastal flooding was less than was expected. An EPA report, State of Knowledge on Climate Change Impacts for Ireland published in 2014 concludes more information is required on the vulnerability of low-lying coastal urban centres and critical infrastructure to the impacts of climate change. Integrated Coastal Zone Management is required and needs to be implemented to coherently meet the challenges posed by climate change. Since the early 1990s (1993) a Sea Level Rise of c. 3.5cm per decade (currently c. 3.4mm/year) has been observed. Predicted changes in mean sea level will be the primary driver in magnifying the impacts of changing storm surge and wave patterns in coastal areas. Increases of 55cm-60cm this century will amplify impacts of storm surges and wave erosion in coastal areas. Clearly Ireland’s sea level in coastal areas is on the rise.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (2003) a sensible approach to coastal management for sea level change is

  • no new building or new development within 100 m of  ‘soft’ shoreline,
  • no further reclamation of estuary land,
  • no removal of sand dunes, beach sand or gravel,
  • all coastal defence measures to be assessed for environmental impact. Where possible, the landward migration of coastal features, such as dunes and marshes should be facilitated. These features form an integral part of the coastal system, physically and ecologically, and provide protection against wave energy through dissipation.

 

coastal erosion from winter storms
Each winter storm erodes tonnes of soil by the sea waves from west facing drumlins in Clew Bay, County Mayo March 2018.

 The EPA states that a policy of planned retreat in some areas, combined with prohibitions on new developments in vulnerable coastal zones offers the best economic solution for most areas in Ireland.

“Ireland’s coastal vulnerability lies more with the attitudes of the people towards Integrated Coastal Zone Management than in any physical susceptibility of the coast for response to climate changes.”

(Devoy 2008- Coastal Vulnerability and the Implications of Sea-Level Rise for Ireland).

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