Coastal REsistance: Alerts and Monitoring Technologies (CreamT)

A 1 m sea level rise is almost certain in the next century and it is estimated that 20% of England’s coastal defences could fail under just half this rise. Ambitious climate mitigation and adaptation plans may protect 400,000 – 500,000 people, but flood and coastal erosion risks cannot be fully eliminated – we cannot build infinitely high sea walls. Worldwide 150 million people could be affected by sea level rise in the next 30 years. Better ways to measure, forecast, warn of and respond to coastal flooding are thus required. Using Penzance and Dawlish we will demonstrate a new monitoring system able to issue vital real-time hazard alerts and flood data to national government agencies. Working with the Environment Agency (EA), Met. Office, Channel Coastal Observatory (CCO), Cornwall Council, Teignbridge District Council, Capgenimi and National Trust, we will build on previous research using digital communication, data networking and citizen science. Our recent project (WireWall) created a unique overtopping sensor that we will develop into a low-cost hazard monitoring system for long-term deployments using telemetry to transfer data. Another project (SWEEP) created a south west regional computer simulation that updates daily to forecast coastal hazard 3 days in advance. The CCO hosts both projects online alongside the Regional Coastal Monitoring Programmes (RCMP) across England. This project will incorporate our new hazard data into the SWEEP service through a new web-accessible, open source data staging web service, thus linking models and new monitoring to validate current hazard services.

The new web service will expose existing, coastal, river and weather data, while the new system will include:

  1. a novel wave overtopping sensor to measure water levels and waves just before they impact a sea wall in addition to the depth, volume and speed of the water as it overtops onto public access areas behind the sea defence;
  2. cameras to validate wave conditions and confirm the occurrence of overtopping events;
  3. laser measurements of the pre- and post-storm beach levels during an event; and
  4. an international citizen science programme, CoastSnap, that monitors beach conditions over time through photographs.

The system will use the UK’s tide gauge network to trigger the measurement of potentially hazardous conditions when water levels reach the sea walls and return real-time alerts when flooding is detected. This information will allow validation of the SWEEP computer alert service. With the EA’s flood forecast team we will use this information to refine their local hazard thresholds and to understand the uncertainty in local conditions at the sea wall sites due to their large (many km’s) distance from national monitoring stations. The measured, visual and audio data will be used in an interactive coastal walk, and made accessible through an Augmented Reality (AR) phone application, available for IOS and Android devices. The AR walk will guide people to CoastSnap photo posts, encouraging participation in the RCMP beach monitoring. Promotion of the walk through the Tourist Information Centres and Twitter will raise community awareness of changing coastal hazards and shoreline management initiatives such as #floodaware and #CoastSafe. The team of oceanographers, engineers, data managers, a digital artist, a poet and a software developer will apply their expertise in different disciplines to significantly improve the accuracy and effectiveness of existing coastal hazard warning services. They will engage the public through an easily accessible phone app and participation in citizen science monitoring. Information will be archived at BODC and made available under the NERC Data Policy. This online catalogue is designed to be easily found by the Google dataset search engine and ensures our data are FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interpretable and Re-usable).

WireWall datasteam: Coastal Hazards Explorer


PI: Jenny Brown, NOC


Project Dates: 
August 2020 to July 2022


Funders and Partners

Coastal Processes Research Group

University of Plymouth