MICORE - Morphological Impacts and COastal Risks induced by Extreme storm events
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Concept and objectives of the MICORE Project

imageClimate change presents unprecedented societal, agricultural and industrial challenges that must be addressed by developed nations in the near future. Increasingly, civil society and politicians are recognizing that past scientific predictions of climate change are now a reality and that changes are occurring at a rate faster than previously imagined. Recent statements taken from the popular press drawing attention to these issues include:

The years 2004 and 2005 were characterised by a large number of coastal disasters around the world (e.g. Sumatra tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in US). These powerful natural events have raised awareness that the coastal areas of both developed and developing countries can be exposed to natural disasters. Although the processes that generate these events are beyond human control, many lives could be saved in the future if adequate mitigation procedures can be developed. Examples of existing procedures include the warning systems for tsunamis and associated vulnerability mapping, and accurate forecasting of major storms and hurricanes via synoptic weather circulation models. Linked closely to this are civil defence and coastal evacuation plans that aim to reduce the risk to human life and minimise damage to property and infrastructure. Increasingly scientific and public concerns with natural hazards influence political priorities of the European Union and its member states.image

Both the EU and The United Nations are now taking seriously the predicted climate change scenarios of the IPCC (International Panel for Climate Changes). Of particular relevance to MICORE is the predicted increase in the intensity and frequency of powerful storm events characterised by larger peak wind speeds and consequently larger waves. According to the IPCC Summary Report to Policy Makers published on 2 February 2007:

"The apparent increase in the proportion of very intense storms since 1970 in some regions is much larger than simulated by current models for that period".

Although during the winter of 2006/2007 the majority of Europe experienced a mild climate, the track of Hurricane Kyrill resulted in property and infrastructure damage. Based on a search in the internet, Kyrill was a medium strength storm, which made landfall in Europe on 18 of January, affected significantly 8 countries causing loss of 47 human lives, and a large number of small property losses, greatly affecting insurance companies. The estimated insurance bill due to Kyrill is around 3.5 billion euros. With such contemporary examples it is clear that Europe should be better prepared to deal with the impact of extreme events at the coastline and elsewhere and to take account of changes in storm occurrence and magnitude in our planning processes.
imageEngineering has usually been favoured in the past as the best option for disaster mitigation at the coast. However, most engineering works are constrained by economics, and a compromise is sought between the potential threat to lives and property and the resources available for design and construction. Furthermore, the design of structures is based on predicted extreme events which themselves are subject to uncertainty, especially in a rapidly changing global climate. The huge damage to the city of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina illustrates clearly that what can go wrong when and engineering design is subjected to forcing beyond its design limits and when civil evacuation and management plans fail. This devastating event illustrates also that the experience of past storm events can be quickly forgotten and post-event policies of mitigation rather than defence are the norm. For example, although Hurricane Camille in 1969 had a significant impact on coastal Louisiana, post-storm construction criteria aimed at mitigating future flooding were clearly inadequate as damage inflicted by Katrina followed a similar pattern. Failure to learn from the past and an increase in natural hazard frequency is further illustrated by some stark statistics on natural disasters worldwide: in the 1980s there were on average 173 reported disasters each year; in the 1990s they rose to 236 and in 2005 there were 430 disasters which claimed the lives of almost 90000 people. The desire not to see an "EU-Orleans" is a primary motivation underpinning the MICORE project.

Economic limitations mean it is simply not possible to design, fund and build schemes to protect vulnerable coastal areas from all anticipated events. Indeed, scenarios of climate change impacts from present models are diverse and cannot at present be relied on to give accurate forecast of future extreme event around coastal Europe. There is an urgent need therefore to develop new coastal management systems to deal with as yet unforeseen extreme events that fall outside the design limits of existing and future coastal structures. MICORE will address this by revisiting historical extreme storm events and evaluate closely at their impact on the human occupation of the coastal zone. These studies will provide the evidence required to develop accurate vulnerability mapping based on knowledge from observed events in the past. This work is considered to be pivotal in the development of future coastal hazard warning systems.image

The impact of storms on coastal cities has also worldwide implication. With a multidisciplinary and integrated approach in natural hazards research, the MICORE project provides an opportunity for European science to guide and support the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and its framework for action (2005-2015). According to the State of the World 2007 of the Worldwatch Institute, 21 out of 33 cities projected to have at least 8 million residents by 2015 are coastal cities. They will each have to take measures to deal with the combined impacts of rising sea level and increase storminess. The predictive tools to be developed in the MICORE project will make a significant contribution to the development of mitigation measures given a storm forecast, predicting where along the study coastlines rapid civil response measures are needed, following the occurrence of massive erosion events which may cause coastal flooding. MICORE aims to develop a strategy for coastal hazard assessments that takes into account basic steps which should be implemented in all locations (regardless of the socio-economic differences between coastal countries) and also to look at differences in the management approaches that varied socio-economic/development levels might require. The more strategic analysis will not be confined to planning direct response to a single event but also longer-term coastal planning. Coastal managers will use MICORE's outputs to decide where coastal protection works are needed and what kind of coastal protection works are sustainable, in a cost-benefit context.

The specific objectives of the MICORE project are:

1. To undertake a review of historical marine storms that had a significant impact on a representative number of sensitive European regional coastlines. The diverse range of coastal regions of the European Union is selected according to wave exposure, tidal regime and socio-economical pressures. They include outmost regions of the European Union at the border with surrounding states (e.g. the area of the Gibraltar Strait, the Baltic and Black Sea), as well as coastlines bordering open ocean and semi-enclosed shelf seas.


2. To collate data related to occurrence of significative extreme events and socio-economic impacts in a database. Parameters will include:
•  characteristics of the storms: wind and wave measurements, wave hindcasts, tide measurements, surge computations;

•  morphological impacts including pre- and post-storm beach profiles, presence of dune overwashing/overtopping, damage to coastal structures;

•  socio-economic impact including cost of reconstruction, loss of lives and property, dune reconstruction and beach replenishment;

•  civil protection schemes, implementation of warning systems and preparation of hazard and vulnerability maps;

•  competent authorities and statutory bodies and voluntary organisations for warnings


3. To undertake monitoring of nine European case study sites for a period of 1 year with the following aims:
•  to collect new data sets of bathymetry and topography using state-of-the-art technology (Lidar, ARGUS, Radar, DGPS); to simultaneously measure the forcing agents (wind and waves, tides, surges) that trigger the events;

•  to map the impact of the storms on living and non-living resources using portable GIS methods.


4. To test and develop reliable methods for numerical modelling of storm-induced morphological changes for the following purposes:
•  to test the predictive capability of wave and surge hindcast models routinely used by end users in each region of interest;

•  to link morphological models with wave hindcast models;

•  to evaluate the accuracy of off-the-shelf morphological models for prediction of extreme erosion hot-spots;

•  to test and develop a new open-source morphological model for the prediction of storm impacts.


5. To set-up real-time warning systems and to implement their use within Civil Protection agencies with the aim of:
•  linking morphological models with wave hindcast models;

•  preparing early warning protocols;

•  developing an expert system in support of long-term disaster reduction including timely disaster relief operations.


6. To disseminate results to end users at national, European and International levels through:
•  a series of non-technical workshops;

•  production of a multilanguage report;

•  production of a storm impact video-clips;

•  implementation of an interactive website with Web-GIS technology.

Visits since May 2011: 999

Grant agreement no.: 202798 Start date: June 2008 Duration: 40 months Coordinator: Prof. Paolo Ciavola, University of Ferrara
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