Why and how did we create SurgeWatch

There are two main reasons we started compiling the SurgeWatch database.

First, the winter of 2013/14 saw some of the UK’s most extreme sea levels, waves and coastal flooding for several decades. During this period storms repeatedly subjected large areas of our coast to enormous stress and damage, reminding us of the real and ever-present risks and challenges facing coastal communities today. We wanted to understand how unusual this season really was, in relation to other seasons in the last 100 years.

Second, there is currently no nationwide system in place to: 1) assess which high waters caused coastal flooding; and 2) to document information on the occurrence and extents of coastal floods and consequences.  The UK Coastal Monitoring and Forecasting Service generates daily forecasts of storm surges, and continuously monitors water levels throughout the UK using the National Tide Gauge Network, but they do not record which high sea levels go onto cause flooding, or capture information about the flooding. Interested parties (e.g., the Environment Agency (EA), local authorities, and coastal groups) often report on events, but detail is usually limited, and the process is unsystematic. Without a systematic record of flood events, assessment of coastal flooding around the UK coast is limited.

Over the coming weeks we will include various posts on how exactly we created the database. A detailed account is given in the following open access journal paper ‘A user-friendly database of coastal flooding in the United Kingdom from 1915–2014‘ available here.