Multi-scale variability of Storm Ophelia 2017: the importance of synchronised environmental variables in coastal impact

Emilia Guisado-Pintado, Derek W. T. Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Low frequency, high magnitude storm events can dramatically alter coastlines, helping to relocate large volumes of sediments and changing the configuration of landforms. Increases in the number of intense cyclones occurring in the Northern Hemisphere since the 1970s is evident with more northward tracking patterns developing. This brings added potential risk to coastal environments and infrastructure in northwest Europe and therefore understanding how these high-energy storms impact sandy coasts in particular is important for future management.This study highlights the evolution of Storm (formally Hurricane) Ophelia in October 2017 as it passed up and along the western seaboard of Ireland. The largest ever recorded Hurricane to form in the eastern Atlantic, we describe, using a range of environmental measurements and wave modelling, its track and intensity over its duration whilst over Ireland. The impact on a stretch of sandy coast in NW Ireland during Storm Ophelia, when the winds were at their peak, is examined using terrestrial laser scanning surveys pre- and post-storm to describe local changes of intertidal and dune edge dynamics. During maximum wind conditions (>35 knots) waves no ≥2 m were recorded with an oblique to parallel orientation and coincident with medium to low tide (around 0.8 m). Therefore, we demonstrate that anticipated widespread coastal erosion and damage may not always unfold as predicted. In fact, around 6,000 m3 of net erosion occurred along the 420 m stretch of coastline with maximum differences in beach topographic changes of 0.8 m. The majority of the sediment redistribution occurred within the intertidal and lower beach zone with some limited dune trimming in the southern section (10% of the total erosion). Asynchronous high water (tide levels), localised offshore winds as well as coastline orientation relative to the storm winds and waves plays a significant role in reducing coastal erosional impact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-301
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date23 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Jul 2018


  • storm Ophelia erosion beach dunes hurricane impact synchronised


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