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Coastal evolution under climate change

Coastal zones are densely populated areas of high socio-economic and ecological value that concentrate many assets and ecosystems. At the same time, they are highly-vulnerable to hazards related to sea-level rise and storminess, such as coastal flooding and erosion. In fact, such threads will be one of the costliest aspects of global warming. In particular, sandy beaches are of significant socio-economic relevance due to the high level of human utilisation and, at the same time, they present major challenges to evaluate climate change impacts because their morphology responds relatively quickly to changes in the hydrodynamic forces (including sea level, waves, currents, wind and rivers). In addition, the morphological state of the beach itself affects the hydrodynamic conditions, leading to a complex feedback between coastal morphology and these forcings. A deep understanding of the physical processes taking place on sedimentary coasts in response to marine climate forcings is thus crucial to assess their projected evolution under changing conditions

Our approach combines numerical modelling and data acquisition (in cooperation with researchers from the Marine Sciences Institute of Barcelona) since the latter is essential to calibrate and validate the former. The different validated morphodynamic models are subsequently used to forecast beach response at different time scales, from hours to decades, using different climate change scenarios. Mesures to mitigate the imact of global warming can also be tested with the models. Apart from the intrinsic value of such type of forecasts, our group is especiallized on unravelling the dominant physical processes.