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A recent international study shows that extreme storms can help protect beaches from sea-level rise. According to the study, led by Dr. Mitchell Harley from the University of New South Wales Water Research Laboratory, extreme weather conditions can protect the coastline from rising sea levels by bringing in new sand from other beaches or deeper waters. The study was published on 12th May in the Nature Communications Earth & Environment.
The researchers of the study found out that there were hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of sand collecting below the water. The amount of sand entering these beaches during storms and other weather conditions was similar to the amount of sand engineers use to maintain a beach artificially. The extra sand filling in could eventually be enough to counteract the effect of sea-level rise caused by global warming. Scientists now have a new way to look at extreme weather conditions.
The study was in collaboration with other researchers and experts from the University of Plymouth and the Autonomous University of Baja California. The study surveyed three coastlines around Australia, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Each coastline experienced a sequence of extreme weather events, followed by a slight period of beach recovery. Researchers studied Narrabeen beach in Sydney, Australia, using high-resolution measurements of the beach and seabed, while researchers in the United Kingdom studied Perranporth beach using monthly beach topographic surveys and annual bathymetric surveys.
Coastal managers planning for the impacts of climate change do not know precisely how much a coastline might change due to the rise in sea levels. Previously, effects on coastlines were estimated using the Brunn rule– for every meter of sea-level rise, the coastline is predicted to retreat between 20 or 100 metres. According to the Brunn rule, sea level rise so far has projected the result in the retreat of almost half of the world’s coastlines by the end of the 21st century. However, according to recent information, the impacts of extreme storms will be considered in long-term projections.
According to Dr. Mitchell Harley, only a few measurements of the seabed of our beaches are available, making it difficult to predict the amount of sand that storms can shift in the future.
To better understand the new situation, there is a need to conduct frequent studies on different coastlines and storms. Only then will experts be able to predict the future of the world’s coastlines.