A study conducted by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) has concluded that beaches hit by the 2013-14 storm in North Cornwall and Devon are only three quarters the size they were five years before the storm.
The winter storm washed away the seawall of Devon and Dawlish. It destroyed the coast lines, leading to eroded dunes. Some of the sediments from the storm are still offshore, below tide level.
The research team, which also included scientists from Plymouth, the University of Western Brittany, the University of Bordeaux and Ulster University, previously called the storm the most energetic in Western Europe’s Atlantic Coast since 1948.
They used wave measurements, real-time kinematic GPS and three dimensional beach profiling to conduct this study.
Perranporth Beach (Source: Google maps, Contributor: Gary Nicholls)
The lead of the Coastal Processes Research Group at the University of Plymouth, Professor Gerd Masselink said, “The common thinking is that winter storms erode beaches and that sand and gravel return during the summer.
“This is partly true, but over the past decade, it has become clear that beaches in the South West of England can take more than one year to recover and the amount of beach recovery is most dependent on the conditions during the winter after the storms.
“A following winter with above-average wave height, such as in 2016 or 17, can in fact set back the recovery, whereas a relatively calm winter helps beaches recover.”
Details of the research will be published in the Earth Surface Processes and Landforms journal.