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Algarve University develops coastal risk alert system

The coastal risk alert system will enable authorities to determine the consequences of a storm to coastal areas three days in advance, explained Óscar Ferreira, coordinator of the Portuguese division of the Micore project. “The system will determine whether there is the possibility of erosion, retreat of the coast line, material damage or ocean swells during a storm” said the researcher at the Navy and Environmental Research Centre of the Algarve University.

For such predictions to be made, the system will be using data from weather forecasts, currents, and wave propagation and coastal erosion models, as well as studying the geology of the coastal area at risk.

The system is to be developed in coastal regions of nine European countries: Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Britain, Belgium, Poland and Bulgaria, but is hoped to be implemented in most coastal European countries, and even the world, in the future.

By being able to predict the outcome of a specific storm days in advance, the Civil Protection and coastal authorities will be able to take precautionary measures and warn the populations before the storm strikes.

To develop the system, which will begin in around six months, an assessment in the variation of storms in the past 50 years was made and it showed that in the South of Europe there is a diminishing tendency for violent storms. “There is a tendency for increasingly stronger storms in the North Atlantic, contrary to the South, where a slight diminishment is predicted” said Óscar Ferreira, adding that the energy and duration of the storms in the Algarve could decrease.

Speaking of successive storms that have caused great damage to regions, such as the ones felt in the Algarve during the months of December and January, the researcher said that these could happen, on average, every three or four years. Successive storms are the most damaging ones as the coastal regions do not have enough time to recover their defences, such as sand banks, and so are more dangerous and damaging to the region than periodic storms.

According to Óscar Ferreira, the field work phase is now complete and consisted of systematic surveys of underwater and abovewater areas, and, in Faro beach’s case, the collection of images from strategically placed cameras.

The system should be ready within a year, when it will be presented to Civil Protection and coastal authorities.


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